MEEKER - Sheepdog trials, which test the partnership, obedience and determination of well-trained border collies and their handlers in a series of shepherding tasks, take place all over the world.But the competition at the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials is unique, according to Meeker trials director Mary Cunningham. "The sheep that are used in Meeker are really tough," she said. "A lot of the dogs aren't from here and they're used to 'farm flocks,' where the sheep have been contained in small pastures. These sheep have just come down from their summer range, where they've had to deal with predators and had little to no contact with humans or sheepdogs."The use of range sheep increases the difficulty level at the Meeker trials to the point that sometimes the sheep "beat" the dogs."When a dog can't complete a run or gets outfoxed by the sheep, the handlers call it getting 'Meekered,'" Cunningham explained. This year's classic starts at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 5, and continues through Sunday, Sept. 9. In its 26th year, the Meeker Classic has grown from a small-town effort to attract tourists to an isolated part of Colorado into an internationally renowned competition. One hundred and thirty dogs are scheduled to compete, coming from Brazil, South Africa, the United States and Canada to vie for the $25,000 purse. In addition to the competition, the collaborative community event includes a prestigious art contest, barbecues, outdoor concerts, bagpipers, Celtic dancing, a petting zoo, a quilt show, flyball and dog agility demonstrations, pancake breakfasts, and educational seminars on everything from wool-spinning to dog training. A horse-drawn wagon and a small bus shuttle spectators from the Ute Park trials site into Meeker's quaint, historic downtown throughout the event.Meeker Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Katelin Cook said the community is getting ready to receive the more than 10,000 spectators expected to attend all or part of the trials. "We're looking for the biggest and best turnout this year," Cook said.If you can't attend all four days, don't miss the semi-finals and finals at 8 a.m. on Saturday and 8:15 a.m. on Sunday, with the first round of seven dogs. The second round of finalists run at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, followed by an awards ceremony.Bring your own seating, umbrellas and sunscreen, and please leave pets at home.A five-day gate pass is $30 for adults, and $15 for children 8-16 and senior citizens. A one-day pass is $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. Passes can be purchased at the gate or online at www.meekersheepdog.com and picked up at the gate. Meeker is less than an hour's drive north of Rifle on Colorado Highway 13. The trials site is on the left side of the highway, just before you reach the downtown area.
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