Sheepdog trials: Rounding up a good time

Organizers of the 20th Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials, an annual event, are expecting a large turnout of spectators and participants for their silver anniversary.

Between 8,000 and 15,000 people take part in the four-day event each year, said Ellen Nieslanik, event director.

"This is our 20th anniversary, which makes this year special," Nieslanik said. "Usually, there isn't a motel room left in town. We have a really loyal spectator base."

This year's event is set for Wednesday to Saturday in Meeker.

More than 120 sheepdogs from around the globe compete. They are from such destinations as South Africa, Denmark, Sweden and Canada.

The dogs and their handlers will compete for a purse totaling $20,000.

The event is free and open to the public.

As a testament to the event's popularity, Nieslanik said 60 dogs are on the waiting list to enter the competition if others drop out. The roster of competitors filled up after registration was open just a few days.

"We've got some big names just waiting," she said. "It's just that the list filled so quickly."

The trials began two decades ago as a way to stimulate the local economy. The idea of the sheepdog event was born because of Meeker's rich tradition in ranching.

"They dreamt up this idea to use what we have," Nieslanik said. "We have been very popular ever since."

Dogs will compete in various events throughout the trials. They include contests in voice command, fetching and fieldwork.

Other activities for spectators at the trials to enjoy include a daily craft fair, food booths, weekend pancake breakfasts and a Sunday lamb barbecue. Other entertainment will include dog exhibitions and bagpipe music.

Visitors are encouraged to take lawn chairs, sunscreen and binoculars.

For more information, call Nies--lanik at 878-0080 or e-mail her at trials@meekersheepdog.com, or visit the event Web site, www.meekersheepdog.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.