Sheepdog trials start Wednesday

Chairman of Meeker Classic encourages families to attend five-day event


It's about the connection between a master and his dog.

It's about testing the dogs and showing off what they are able to do. It's about skill, determination and sometimes just plain luck.

"A hundred people could not do what one good sheepdog can," Meeker Classic Sheepdog Chairman Gus Halandras said. "They are the best employees and loyal friends."

Every September for 18 years Meeker becomes the stage for The Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials. The five-day event brings close to 20,000 people to Northwest Colorado. Along with the people, it brings around $1 million in revenue for the region.

"We're amazed that the Meeker Classic has become what it is today," Halandras said. "It is a world-class event."

Halandras was there in the beginning, before the trials became an annual event.

"There was a lot of kitchen table discussion before we actually hosted one, but look at us now ---- it's more than we ever dreamed," he said.

The trials consist of tests where dogs -- usually border collies -- gather a group of usually six sheep and herd them to different spots and eventually pen them. The handler uses a special whistle and a hand signals to instruct the dog.

The winner gets a $15,000 purse. There are 134 contestants for this year trial.

"Anymore and we would have trouble completing the eliminations in time," he said.

The five-day event includes a welcoming ceremony at Fawn Creek Gallery on Thursday. Artwork entered in the annual sheepdog contest will be on display.

The winning work will become the poster used for next year's event. The judge for the trial is Peter Hertherington from Scotland.

"He was a competitor once and judged the event twice in the past," Halandras said.

Halandras said he was especially grateful to Hertherington this year because the original judge canceled about a month ago after suffering a heart attack.

"We were scrambling and Peter called and volunteered to help us out," he said.

Halandras said this is a family event and hopes more people take the opportunity to come enjoy the experience.

"It is fun, and a fascinating event to experience," he said.

The eliminations begin on Wednesday at 7 a.m. On Sunday, the top 10 dogs will compete. There is a craft fair all five days from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children for one day and $20 and $10 for the five days. Bagpiper Hugh Thackaberry will be playing throughout the day Saturday and Sunday.

Jack and Kathy Knox will be performing with a two dog team at noon both Saturday and Sunday.

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