Magic at Meeker |

Magic at Meeker

2022 Meeker Classic to be held Sept. 7–11, 2022

Each September in Meeker, as the cars line up at the main gate, flags ascend poles, the set-out crew fill pens at the top of the course with sheep while smells of fresh coffee fill the crisp morning air. Clerks check their timers, running orders are posted, water tanks are filled, volunteers grab their charged radios, the judge takes her position and nods to the first handler who walks with his dog to the post — the magic of Meeker is about to unfold.

This scene has repeated itself over and over again for 36 years in this sleepy little town. What is the secret to this magic, what is the recipe, and why have multiple attempts to replicate this fallen short? As someone who has been intimately involved in this trial for years, I think I have some insight and want to do a “recipe reveal” of sorts today as I welcome you to the 2022 Meeker Classic on behalf of the board of directors, the volunteers and the community.

Cowboys set sheep at the far end of the course. Photo by Michelle Cox

First a little sniglet on me. I’m sort of a has-been in Meeker Classic lore, but I can say that in my adult life the Meeker Classic is categorically one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of – and I’ve participated at many levels. First a volunteer, then a vendor, a jackpot competitor, coordinated the Jammin Lamb Festival, the Trial Director from 2005 to 2011, and now just a life-long fan and admirer from a distance. Here goes….

Think of what you see today at Meeker as the result of many things simmering in a large cauldron for 3½ decades, and as with any great recipe it requires quality ingredients. The first ingredient we’ll call the meat of our magic which includes (1) range sheep and (2) the working Border Collie, of which both are intricately woven into our community’s history and fabric. You’ll see a working Border Collie in the back of most ranch trucks down town, and local kids grow up with sheep trailing through town, thousands of them. So the meat of our magic is authentic, local and true.

Next on the ingredient list is the fiber of the magic which gives the organization structure and flow …. namely the volunteers. Because the population is so small, if people don’t participate, things don’t happen. So locals know how to show up, and many you see have been working at the trial for 10, 20 or even 30 plus years. It truly takes a village and ours is more like being part of a huge family. During my tenure as trial director one of our best volunteers was a county jail trustee named Pete who worked for several years. He told me that if he had to get thrown in jail, he preferred to do it in Rio Blanco County just before the trial because he loved being part the 300 some volunteers at the Meeker Classic. It should be noted that many handlers and vendors have joined the ranks of volunteers. That said the category of fiber includes some fruits and nuts and yes everyone and all kinds are welcome.

Next is the roux of the magic which is the ever-growing slurry of spices, connections, experiences and stories which make Meeker a deeper, more rich experience for handler, spectator, vendor and volunteer. Instead of listing them, I’m going to pose a challenge that in itself is meant to deepen the roux. Here’s how it’ll work. Below I’ll list a few of the ingredients in the roux-history and your challenge is to reminisce and learn the story behind them. If you’re new to Meeker ask an old timer, and if you know the story share it with a newby. Here is a short list: Julio’s chips; Grant Nielsen; the microburst of 2007; structure of first pen at the 1987 trial; herding pigs; the monkeys; names of set out guys; sheep in the judge’s trailer; handler who sings Canadian National Anthem; Christine’s baklava; the new “West Gate” banner ripped from its grommets by handler’s camper; dog that announcer adopted; escaped sheep on courthouse lawn; mountain lions in sheep; rescued dog full of porcupine quills who returned years later to compete; and the first location for the trial. The roux is the ever-changing makeup of the magic that just gets richer with time. It’s the connections, the friendships and family forged in and around this event that creates the boomerang effect and brings people back every year.

So the basic ingredients are revealed herein. The question of who is the wizard or the chef remains even though we know it culminated around Gus and Christine’s kitchen table so many years ago. Please make it a point to join us in Meeker Sept. 7-11, 2022 – you won’t be disappointed! 135 Border Collies can’t be wrong! We can’t wait to see what your contribution to the magic.

“Don’t put away your wand, Harry.” JK Rowling

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