Sheep, dogs ... and monkeys

Sheepdog Classic begins Wednesday

The 21st Annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials runs from Wednesday to Sunday. The event is expected to draw 12,000 to 18,000 people to the town.

— Highly trained dogs from across the globe. Spirited competition with, in some cases, a national berth on the line.

And a team of monkeys riding shotgun on the backs of canines.

Sounds like the upcoming 21st Annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday this week.

Trials director Ellen Nieslanik said organizers expect anywhere from 12,000 to 18,000 visitors to flood Meeker, the host city with an estimated population of 2,300, for the event.

Visitors will be treated to some of the finest sheepdogs in the world, she said, and also an unusual exhibit courtesy of Tim Lepard and Team Ghost Riders.

Lepard, a professional rodeo cowboy, and his team of Capuchin monkeys will entertain visitors with their display that entails the monkeys riding on the backs of collies while herding other animals.

"It's absolutely hilarious," Nieslanik said. "It's pretty great to watch."

Team Ghost Riders will perform at about noon Friday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

While Lepard, also known as "Wild Thang," and his cadre of monkeys will provide a sideshow to this year's classic, it's the sheepdogs that are the main attraction.

Nieslanik said this year's field of competitors is wide-ranging. There are 120 dogs and their handlers competing this year.

"We have dogs from all over the world," she said. "We've got 26 states represented. We've got handlers from Canada : South America, Scotland, Italy, Switzerland, Norway. It's probably one of the biggest North American trials."

The dogs and their handlers will be vying for purse money totaling $20,000, and points to qualify for the national finals. The Meeker classic is sanctioned by the United States Border Collie Handlers Association.

About 240 volunteers, many of them local, make the event possible to host in Meeker, Nieslanik said.

Also available at this year's event will be a craft and food fair, art contest, petting farm and dog handling and spinning demonstrations. Nieslanik billed the event as "family friendly."

For more information, call (970) 878-0800 or visit the Web site, www.meekersheepdog.com.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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