Sheep dogs to compete in Meeker herding competition

Some people count sheep to fall asleep, but it will be tough to fall asleep at the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials.

Meeker is famous worldwide for the fall event that runs Wednesday through Sunday. The Meeker Classic is a sheep dog competition that brings in some of the finest sheep dogs from around the world.

"From a sheep herder's standpoint, what these people and their dogs can do is absolutely incredible," said Gus Halandras, chairman of the volunteer committee that puts on the event each year. "This comes from a guy who has chased sheep his whole life."

The event grew from an idea on how to boost tourism in Meeker into a competition that is recognized as the "grandaddy" of all sheep dog competitions worldwide.

Dogs competing in the competition are mostly border collies. They each have a chance to herd a small group of sheep through different obstacles. Dogs and their owners are timed and judged on each run.

The Meeker Classic has grown into an event with 12,000 spectators and a purse of $10,000. More than 126 dogs compete in the competition that brings an estimated $1 million to the Meeker economy. There is also an art contest for the annual poster with 30 entries from around the world The event will also host more than 500 grade school children this year from Moffat, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties as a way for children to learn about the sheep industry and culture.

"It's world-renowned," said Halandras. "When you win the Meeker Classic you really win. We were lucky we simply hit on an idea that was of age. It's a natural combination we just happened to have the right magic."

The event has a wide enough variety of attractions to hold the interests of anyone including a border collie frisbee exhibit, craft festival, barbecues, art exhibit and sale, handlers' dinner, breakfast at the Masonic Temple, stockdog jackpot, authentic bagpiper, calcutta auction and lamb feast.

Events this year are Wednesday through Sunday with the finals at 8 a.m. on Sunday.

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