The 22nd annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials are scheduled for Sept. 3 through 7. This year, about 124 dog/handler teams will compete, with more than $20,000 prize money and points in a championship chase at stake.

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The 22nd annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials are scheduled for Sept. 3 through 7. This year, about 124 dog/handler teams will compete, with more than $20,000 prize money and points in a championship chase at stake.

Meeker Classic readies for 22nd annual competition

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There's something for everybody - competitors, spectators, students and especially those in the host town - taking part in next week's 22nd annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials, organizers said.

"And if you don't know anything about what's going on, the person sitting next to you might take all the time in the world to explain it," said Sandra Besseghini, Meeker Classic organizing committee member and publicity and school outreach chairwoman. "We have a very warm, friendly (audience)."

For spectators, the event provides an opportunity to watch trained working dogs "confront feisty sheep," and view facets of sheep ranching, or an "integral part of the history and development of the West," she said.

For competitors, more than $20,000 prize money and needed points in a championship chase are at stake.

For Meeker, there's the economic stimulus of the five-day classic, which brings an average of 5,000 people to the small town in Rio Blanco County.

The classic is scheduled for Sept. 3 through 7 in Ute Park, located immediately outside Meeker on Colorado Highway 13.

About 124 dog/handler teams - from locations around the U.S. and some from foreign countries - are scheduled to participate.

The classic "replicates what is required of a dog helping a sheep rancher in daily work," according to a news release. "Bred for their intelligence and ability to manage sheep, the dogs, usually border collies, test their skills in maneuvering sheep in a calm, controlled manner over the course."

Started in 1987, the Meeker Classic was founded as a way to boost a sagging local economy, Besseghini said. It has done just that, she added.

A Colorado State University study conducted in 2000 revealed that the classic, then 13 years old, brought about $1 million to the county and another $250,000 to other areas of the state, Besseghini said.

There are no current numbers, she said, but given the classic gaining popularity year-by-year, it's likely those figures are higher today.

"It has been a huge success from every standpoint," said Besseghini, who has volunteered to organize the event for 12 years.

Scott Glen, a 2005 winner, also praised the event.

"Everybody wants to come to Meeker," he said, in a news release. "This event has been legendary since shortly after its inception. It holds a lot of prestige."

Overall, about 200 people volunteer to host the Meeker Classic. A 10-member organizing committee begins work on the next year shortly after the current classic has ended.

"There's about a nine-month gestation period for this every year," Besseghini said.

In addition to the dog competitions, the classic also offers food and craft booths, demonstrations in saddlemaking, leatherwork, water colors, pottery and musical performances.

But, the main attraction is the dogs, and for some, the sheep who don't always conform.

"They can be jumpy and very difficult for dogs to handle," Besseghini said. "Anyone who loves animals will be mesmerized."

The event is open to the public.

Cost varies.

Children younger than 8 years old get in free. A single-day pass for adults is $10, and a five-day pass is $30. Admission for 8 to 16 years old is $5 for a single-day pass and $15 for a five-day pass.

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