The 13th annual Hotchkiss Sheep Camp Stock Dog Trials begin Friday. The trials offer a rare glimpse into the lives of herding dogs and their skilled handlers.
Unlike many sheepdog trials, "the whole community gets involved," said event founder Richard Bailey. "It's not just a dog trial."
In addition to three days of competition involving upward of 75 of the most skilled handler/herding dog teams in the nation, the community pulls out all stops to offer a long list of special events and activities. The event is also synonymous with Mother's Day.
"The support from the community is outstanding," said Bailey. "Without that we just couldn't have it."
The trials are held one block from downtown at East Hotchkiss Avenue and 2nd Street. Nursery and Novice competition starts at 8 a.m. Friday, and Pro Novice and Open dog competitions begin at 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
This event happens rain or shine, said Bailey. Cold, rainy weather doesn't bother the dogs or the sheep, and which can actually perform better than on hot sunny days. Since people are deterred by weather, covered bleachers are provided.
Bailey saw his first trials in Canada in about 1986 and entered his first competition as a handler in about 1988. He has missed the Meeker trials, one of the most prestigious shows in the nation now it its 30th year, only three times and has entered the last nine or 10 consecutive years
He considered starting a Hotchkiss sheepdog trial for several years, but had a full-time job at the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery. After retiring he decided that if he could get the volunteers and community support needed, he would organize it. "It worked out," said Bailey.
After 13 years, Bailey said he is stepping back from running the event and will take on more of an advisory role. Cedaredge residents Cheryl and Gordon Hebenstreit, competitors with four Border Collies of their own, will be phased in as organizers.
Volunteers with the Hotchkiss Lions Club are helping with the event, an d the Delta Correctional Center performs set-up and tear-down. Bailey said he's grateful for their help. With everyone being so busy, "It's hard to get volunteers."
The Hotchkiss Sheep Camp Stock Dog Trial is a non-profit organization. To cover costs, they charge a nominal entry fee of $4 on Friday, and $5 on Saturday and on Sunday. "I think that's pretty reasonable," said Bailey. "Where else can you go any more for five dollars?"
The event is nationally sanctioned by the United States Border Collie Handlers Association USBCHA), the sanctioning body for sheep dog and cattle dog trials in the U.S. and Canada. Members who qualify at Hotchkiss and other sanctioned open trials are eligible to compete in the USBCHA National Sheepdog and Cattledog finals, Sept. 13-18 at the Strang Ranch near Carbondale.
Wilda Bahr will judge the event after judge Bill Orr recently injured his knee. "It's kind of scary a week before the event and we don't have a judge," said Bailey. Bahr, from California, had entered two dogs, but dropped out to judge the event. A two-term district director, Bahr has more than 20 years of experience training Border Collies and has qualified for national finals multiple times and was in the top 20 in the nation with her dog, Mirk.
Unfortunately, said Cheryl Hebenstreit, the local FFA chapter won't be serving lamb fajitas this year, but other food vendors will be open. During lunch break Saturday and Sunday, time permitting, a judged demonstration will be presented for spectators.
Sheep shearing demonstrations will be given, and the San Juan Weavers Guild returns to demonstrate the fiber arts of spinning, weaving and carding all day Saturday. Kids and adults alike are welcome to try their hand at some of the skills required to process the wool that comes from the sheep. They will also have some samples of materials made from the wool.
Bailey said that spectators are welcome to bring their own dogs, so long as the dog is leashed and kept under control.
Other events this weekend include:
"All Roads Lead to Hotchkiss," yard sales and more yard sales, Friday-Sunday. Follow the signs.
The First State Bank of Colorado annual barbecue from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Friday at 102 E. Bridge St.
The Hotchkiss High School annual Student Art Exhibit and Cutout Sign unveiling, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, at Creamery Arts Center, 165 Bridge St.
Free admission to the Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Seventh annual Sheep Dog Trial 5K run, 8:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, corner of Hotchkiss Avenue and Pinyon Street. $10 entry fee, registration starts at 8 a.m. email email@example.com for details.
Classic Car Show, hosted by the Ute Trails Car Club from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, at Zack's Park. Lunch catered by Zack's BBQ is available from11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Blues musician Otis Taylor performs a tribute concert to Joe Cocker, 8:30 p.m.. Saturday at the Creamery; Mike Gwinn and David Snider open at 7 p.m.