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Hotchkiss will be Hopping

Hotchkiss will be bustling with activity on May 9-11. The Hotchkiss Sheep Camp Stock Dog Trials will be the spotlighted event. Dogs will begin working sheep at 7 a.m. each day. Individual dogs will work a small group of sheep through a variety of prescribed courses. Each handler aims to give his dog just the right command to get the sheep to move quickly and smoothly through the course. The collie’s natural instinct to herd allows him to anticipate a sheep’s movements almost before the sheep knows what it is going to do. Prizes are awarded to winners, but more important to the dog and handler is the successful completion of the course. Spectators get caught up in the process. If it is a warm day, everyone feels better at the end of the course when the dog hops into the Collie Cooler.

The border collie may not be the perfect dog. But don’t try to tell that to any of the handlers who come from around the country to the Hotchkiss trials. These people know an uncanningly smart, hardworking, loyal animal. They are as attached to their dog as the dog is attached to them. Sandy Bliss of Crawford fell in love with her dog when she simply held him. In 2005 Richard Bailey, the trial organizer, had brought a litter of puppies to the trials to sell. On Sunday afternoon there was only one puppy left. Sandy Bliss who was there selling border collie art work asked to carry the puppy around. When it came time to return the puppy to its kennel, Sandy told Mrs. Bailey she was buying the puppy if the Baileys could keep it a bit longer. Bliss’s brother was dying of cancer in Texas and she was going there the next week. Bliss bought the puppy. Her brother died the following week on May 12th. One year later on May 12th she and Skye won a 4th place at the Hotchkiss trials. Last year Skye won the Delta County Dog of the Year Award and became the Hotchkiss Fire Department’s mascot. Skye not only works sheep, but he also loves to watch TV. Animal Planet is his favorite show. Many of the handlers have similar stories that they will share the observers at the trials. Many people who come to watch, get hooked on collies and want to own one.

In addition to watching the dogs work, attendees can stroll through the sheep camp and wagon exhibition. Some wagons are right off the range like the wagon owned by Emual Planz of Grand Junction. Planz who worked as a sheep herder, camp mover and range boss all of his life entertains anyone who is interested with stories of days gone by.

Gary Kroft of Glade Park will display wagons he custom builds. These wagon are often used as guest houses. Doyle Wilson of Midway, Utah, will display wagons he builds for sheep people today. They may have solar panels, refrigerators, and propane cook stoves.

At lunch time on Saturday, the winning artwork from the 2008 TDS art competition will be auctioned to the highest bidder. Kimmer High-Jepson’s pastel, entitled “Seeking Guidance” depicts the trusting collie looking to its handler for instruction.

An added attraction this year will be a sheep shearing demonstration. Doug Hamilton will shear a sheep hourly beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at the trials grounds. Hamilton, who at one time had a crew of shearers, now only does his own sheep. He will also answer questions of observers.

When folks are ready to see what else is happening around Hotchkiss, the Grand Mesa Harness Club will be at the gate of the trial grounds to give rides. The team and wagon driven by Dick Pierce will drop people off and pick them up at the various activities around town.

At the Heritage Hall on the Delta County Fairgrounds, rabbits will be shown. The Western Colorado Rabbit Breeders Association expects 400 rabbits for the annual show. Visitors will see 17 or 18 different breeds. Rabbits will be for sale for 4-H projects or as pets. (See related story page 28.)

Also at the Fairground’s covered arena the Western Slope Team Penning Association will holds the fifth of a series of six pennings and sortings. Sometimes the action is fast paced as the advanced riders compete for money, belt buckes, and a saddle. The youth ride at a slower pace, and the bystanders often give them advice from the rail. (See related story page 39.)

Another stop is behind Zack’s Bar-B-Q to take in the Lion’s Club and the Ute Car Club’s car show. Or at the Hotchkiss/Crawford Historical Society Museum visitors can view relics at various early displays. The museum is free during the dog trials. Area residents are encouraged to hold yard sales on All Roads Leading to Hotchkiss during the weekend. Hotchkiss antique stores will have special sales also. If you are a quilter you must stop in the at the Quilt Patch to see their astounding collection of fabric. There is literally something for everyone in Hotchkiss this weekend.

If you come to Hotchkiss on Friday for opening day, the First State Bank of Hotchkiss hosts a customer appreciation lunch behind the bank. After lunch a bagpiper will lead a parade of dogs, sheep wagons, and fire trucks to the trial grounds where the opening ceremony will take place.

If you come to Hotchkiss on Saturday or Sunday morning, there will be pancakes breakfasts served. On Saturday the breakfast is at the Elks Club from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. On Sunday, Mothers Day, the Hotchkiss Fire Department will served breakfast at the fire station on Hotchkiss Avenue. They will serve from 6 a.m. Until 11 a.m. Food vendors and other concessionaires will be on the trials grounds throughout the trials.

Need more information? Call Richard Bailey at (970) 921-7671, Dixie Luke at 872-6265 or the Hotchkiss Chamber of Commerce at 872-3226.


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