If you think sheepdog trials involve dogs chasing sheep around, you’d be a little right, but not entirely right. Sheepdog trials are much more involved than I ever realized and our weekend trip to Meeker, in Northwest Colorado, was an eye opening experience. I liked it so much that I’m hoping to sponsor a dog/handler team in 2018.
When I set out on this trip, I didn’t really intend to write specifically about the sheepdog trials, after all, I was there to judge and help promote the Jammin’ Lamb Festival, a lamb cook off in downtown. However, after watching the competition, I really wanted to write about it.
So what are sheepdog trials? In a nutshell, it’s a competitive sport in which herding dogs, under the command of their handler, move sheep around a large field, through fences and gates and into enclosures. The sport is mimicking the work that many of these dogs do at home on the ranch, although some of these dogs spend most of their time competing.
For a complete history of dog trails, go here.
The trials in Meeker have been occurring for 31 years, and this is a serious business with $22,500 in prize money at stake this year. The organizers hosted 130 dog/handler teams in Meeker this year and, as always, the public is welcomed to attend.
This five-day event features three days of preliminaries with a semifinal on Saturday and a final on Sunday. In addition to the trials, which start at 7 am and go all day with a break for lunch, there are lots of other things on the agenda too.
We arrived on Saturday to a sea of tents and were greeted by the smell of fair food, one of my favorite scents. For lunch, we ended up wolfing down delicious meat pies from an Aspen pastry vendor, but we could have picked from a variety of delicious foodstuff including barbequed ribs or Navajo tacos.
We made our way to a bleacher seat where we sat, alongside a couple of handlers and their dogs, and watched several teams run the course. As an aside, I loved watching the handlers interact with their dogs off the field of competition. There’s a lot of love in these partnerships.
The more we watched over the course of the day, the more we grasped the nuances of the sport. Each dog and handler seem to have a little different style; for instance, some handlers talk to their dogs a lot, while others only communicate via the whistle, and even the dogs have differing styles. During a Lie Down command some dogs actually lie down in the grass, becoming just a pair of ears above the green, but other dogs simply stop in their tracks and resemble a border collie statue with a pink, lollygagging tongue.
It’s no secret that I’m a dog person. I grew up with German Shepherds and currently own a 14 ½-year-old spoiled female GSD. I am a huge fan of working breeds because I love their intelligence. I’ve always admired border collies and would love to own one when I have enough property to let them run.
I wrote the preceding paragraph to explain that while the sheepdog trials are interesting, I think that dog people may find them more entertaining than non-dog people.
In addition to the competition, there’s other stuff on the Meeker Sheepdog Trial agenda. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s a good number of food vendors selling a variety of different menu items. There’s also a big tent where local artisans sell their wares; everything from saddles to handmade jewelry and soap.
The education tent features events like the Blanco Cellars & Little Cheese Shop from Meeker serving up free sheep cheese and many demonstrations and presentations themed around the event (think sniffer dogs and vet presentations).
If you love border collies, this is the place to come. Not only was their sheep and border collie art all over the stores in downtown Meeker, but the Sheepdog Trials features an array of vendors selling border collie merchandise including t-shirts, blankets and everything in between.
If you’ve got kids, bring them. There’s a petting zoo, and this year, they had Fly Ball demonstrations that were a hoot. Your little ones may not last all day, but I know I would have been fascinated with the Meeker Sheepdog Trials as a kid, especially as a kid that loved animals.
Once you start watching the trials, I mean, really watching, it’s addictive. You start rooting for the handlers and their dogs and sometimes it gets downright tense. We hadn’t planned to return on Sunday because we needed to get home to our old dog, but we did end up returning to the event grounds to catch one of the runs on the final day of competition. This is when the top 12 compete and the dogs have to herd 20 sheep instead of five. The final day’s course is also a bit different from the first four days.
We enjoyed the competition, the beautiful views of the surrounding countryside, the echoes of the bagpipe, the smell of fair food and fresh grass and the speed of Meeker. Time moves just a little slower here and people are just a little friendlier. The Meeker Sheepdog Trials are a great excuse to visit this little throwback town where the sheep and kids still roam free.
The Meeker Sheepdog Trials are held annually in September in Meeker, Colorado, about 3 ½ hours west of Denver. If you want to go, plan ahead because lodging in the town fills up well in advance of the event. Go to MeekerSheepdog.com to start planning your visit.
There’s a little spot on Colorado’s Western Slope that’s home to flocks of sheep, fields of vegetables and orchards of fruit. Things move a little slower here and that’s just the way the people of the North Fork Valley like it. There are no freeways and very few stop lights; it’s a bit like going back in time, but better.
Mountain Harvest Festival is a celebration of the bounty of Paonia and the North Fork Valley, and you’re invited to participate in this annual event that’s a little earthy, kinda quirky, a bit country and entirely authentic.
This is a four-day festival that kicks off with food, which makes sense. There are Harvest to Table Dinners at Remedy and the Living Farm Cafe on Thursday night. These dinners feature locally grown, chemical and additive free food.
This festival is hosting a lot of local talent including writers, artists and musicians, and Thursday night is no exception. Harvest of Voices showcases both rising stars and award-winning writers reading from their works.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Mountain Harvest Festival are chockablock with events; I won’t name them all here, but I do want to highlight Saturday Sundown Swing, a ticketed event that features five venues and nine bands. From acoustic to rock, there’s a little something for everyone on tap. Buy an all access ticket (or entry to just one venue) here.
In addition to loads of music, this festival has a farmers’ market, grape stomp, kids area, a Wine Makers Dinner, a chili cookoff, hula hoop contest, local brews, ciders and wines, farm tours and more.
I’d highly recommend renting a bike from Cirque Cyclery in downtown Paonia and participating in Saturday’s Farm & Wine Tours. We had a blast exploring the area’s farms by bike during our 2016 visit (read about it here).
I am delighted to be attending the festival this year, because, despite the fact that I try not to play favorites, the North Fork Valley is one of my favorite spots in Colorado. I hope to see you there!
Mountain Harvest Festival
September 21-24, 2017
Free & ticketed events
Featured Festivals spots on HeidiTown are paid advertisements. If you’d like to have your festival or event considered for a feature contact TheMayor@HeidiTown.com. Thank you!
Making cheese is almost as fun as eating cheese, but in the cheese making classes in Longmont, you get to do both.
Back in April, Ryan and I took a Flavored Cheeses class with The Art of Cheese in Longmont, Colorado. It was part of a weekend visit where we explored a familiar town in an entirely new way; via trolley and via foot. There are more Longmont posts to come.
We arrived at Haystack Mountain Cheeses’ facility on a drizzly, slightly humid morning; perfect for being inside a nice, cool creamery. The Art of Cheese holds their classes inside of Haystack, but they are not related businesses.
Ryan and I love cheese. My favorite spot in the world is the Cheese Importers in Longmont, and by visiting this store many times, we’ve become quite knowledgeable about cheese, however, neither of us have ever tried our hand at making it. Continue reading
If you’re planning to celebrate the harvest season, why not do it in one of Colorado’s most bountiful areas? Mountain Harvest Festival takes place in the North Fork Valley, an area that is brimming with small family farms and vineyards.
I didn’t know about the North Fork Valley until three years ago, and the region has stolen my heart. It is located in Delta County on Colorado’s Western Slope. It’s 40 minutes east of Delta, which straddles Hwy 50, the road connecting Grand Junction and Ouray.
Farm-to-table has been part of everyday life in the North Fork Valley long before it became trendy. It is made up of three communities; Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford. Mountain Harvest Festival takes place in Paonia, but celebrates the entire region.
The four-day event kicks off on Thursday, September 22, with a variety of activities including a Farm-to-Table dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, The Living Farm Cafe.
Things really get going on Friday afternoon. There’s a pumpkin contest, bike parade, a Drink Locally event at Town Park and live music.
This festival is a celebration of all things local, including food, music and art. After all, the North Fork Valley isn’t only a great growing region, it’s a place where artists flourish as well, and there are a number of area art schools.
On Saturday there’s a smorgasbord of events planned. Don’t miss the Cirque Bike Farm Tours at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. We did a bike to farm tour with Cirque while we were in town earlier this summer (read all about it here). You can also do self-guided farm and winery tours while in town for the festival.
A festival farmers’ market will take place throughout the weekend and the Drink Locally event in Town Park happens Friday through Sunday. In addition, Mountain Harvest Festival has loads of live music schedule, farm-to-table dinners, yoga, bike Olympics and so much more.
Mountain Harvest Festival is a feast for the eyes, heart and stomach.
And here’s a warning: If this will be your first visit to the North Fork Valley, you may fall in love. Because what’s not to love about a region filled with vineyards, rolling hills dotted with sheep and trees heavy-laden with fruit? In a recent magazine article I dubbed the region “the land of milk and honey,” and that’s not an exaggeration.
If you’d like to experience this Delta County’s North Fork Valley to the fullest, you need to attend Mountain Harvest Festival in Paonia, Colorado.
Mountain Harvest Festival
winner of the Governor’s Award for Best Small Community Festival
September 22-25, 2016
Some events ticketed/Most events are free
Featured Festival spots on HeidiTown.com are paid advertisements. Interested in having your festival or event considered for a feature? Email TheMayor@HeidiTown.com.
Sometimes the universe has a funny way of working things out. This is one of those instances. As some of you already know, earlier this year, The Living Farm in Paonia, Colorado named one of their spring lambs after me.
Longtime readers should be familiar with The Living Farm as I’ve written about it here on HeidiTown.com.
I was very honored by this gesture and was able to meet Heidi during my visit to Delta County at the end of July. She was a big four month old by then, not really a lamb, but more of a sheep, however, she still sat on my lap as if she’d known me her entire life.
Fast forward to two week ago when I got an email from Lynn Gillespie of The Living Farm, informing me that Heidi had been bought by a farm on the Front Range. As fate would have it, Heidi’s new home, SkyPilot Farm & Creamery is just 25 minutes from my home. It seemed written in the stars that Heidi and I should meet again. Continue reading
As alert readers will have noticed, we’ve been riding bikes a lot this summer. I love riding bikes – not any downhill craziness, mind you – I prefer cruising on country roads or trails. Earlier this summer we did a bike to farm outing in the North Fork Valley, located in Delta County, Colorado. This is the story.
We rented bikes at Cirque Cyclery in downtown Paonia. A destination in and of itself, Cirque Cyclery is one of several awesome small businesses under the same roof.
Cirque Cyclery rents and sells bicycles, plus unique clothing and gifts, Shish KaBikes repairs bikes and Remedy Juice Bar Cafe provides refreshments, including adult beverages. The entire place, which was formerly the Paonia Post Office, has a laid back, neighborly feel. Continue reading
I get asked year round for advice on where to go on a girlfriend getaway in Colorado and I usually respond with, “It depends.” It depends on the type of women in your party; is your group filled with outdoor enthusiasts or would they rather shop till they drop? Or perhaps they want to do a bit of both?
Here are some of my suggestions for a Colorado girls getaway this summer that will make everyone happy and provide beautiful backdrops for adorable selfies.
Shopping girls trip
Steamboat Springs is one of my favorite mountain shopping towns. With a variety of shops and galleries and F.M. Light & Sons, one of the West’s most famous western wear boutiques, shopping in Steamboat is a real Colorado kind of affair.
My Facebook wall has been full of tropical vacation photos for several weeks. I even have a friend on a private yacht in the Caribbean. If this is the case for you too, it’s rather depressing, right? I mean, who doesn’t want to be on a yacht in the Caribbean?
If you’ve got cabin fever, I’ve got a solution and no, it’s not robbing a bank. It’s called a mini-vacation, and while I’m not promising that this outing will be as exciting as snorkeling in Grand Cayman or zip lining in Costa Rica, it will brighten your day.
1. Take a Walking Tour
Not every town has a guided walking tour, but you’d be surprised at how many towns have a printed version of a walking tour. They are usually available at your local visitor center, museum or at the chamber of commerce.
I once took a walking tour of Fort Collins, a town with which I am very familiar. It was a night walking tour, but it wasn’t about ghosts, but rather the town’s history. Despite having walked Fort Collins’ streets many times (even at night), during the tour I felt like I was in a brand new town. Continue reading
As you know, Ryan and I did a lot of traveling this winter and every trip has a special place in our hearts. Grand Junction, however, has a special place in our stomachs. If you are a fan of eating and drinking, you’ll want to get out a pen and paper and take notes on this post.
We’d driven by Grand Junction and Palisade a number of times over the years, but had never stopped, so we had no idea what we’d been missing.
So without further ado, here’s a two-day Grand Junction/Palisade itinerary, influenced greatly by our March trip.
Before heading out to Grand Junction, call and make dinner reservations at Bin 707 Foodbar. Arrive Grand Junction and check into your hotel. We stayed at The Clarion. It’s a simple, freeway hotel, but they provide a free shuttle to downtown and there’s a nice little bar at the attached restaurant, Pantuso’s Ristorante.
Utilize free shuttle ride to downtown. If you are a little early, browse Art on the Corner and do a little shopping. We were impressed without how busy downtown Grand Junction gets on a Friday night – every restaurant was packed and the sidewalks were bustling with people.
Bin 707 Foodbar is a little slice of culinary heaven in the heart of Grand Junction. They serve up locally sourced food in a contemporary, yet comfortable environment. Engage your knowledgeable server to learn about the menu.
We started with an assembly of charcuterie and artisan cheese. Charcuterie is the craft of salting, curing and smoking meat. There was a rich pate made in-house with fresh herbs, prosciutto cut so thin you could see through it and headcheese made by the Chef of Bin 707. All the cheeses were from Colorado including the Ashley from MouCo Cheese Company in Fort Collins, a personal favorite.
We didn’t stop with the cheese and meat plate. We ordered up fried oysters served with aioli sauce, roasted beet salad (a customer favorite) and grilled cheese flatbread with arugula salad. I felt like I was on an episode of Top Chef and I gave everything top scores.
We paired our food with local wine and ended our meal with two unique deserts. I’m not a big desert person, but my beet ice cream was sweet and earthy at the same time, an amazing combination. Ryan ordered the Momofuku Crack pie, and they might actually spike it with an illegal substance because it’s that freakin’ good.
We got up early, had the free breakfast buffet at The Clarion and then headed to Powderhorn Resort for a morning of skiing. The resort is about 45 minutes from Grand Junction. However, if you’re making this trip during the spring or summer, head to the Colorado National Monument to some morning hiking and bighorn sheep hunting. Hunt with your camera, of course. I wrote about our experience at the Colorado National Monument in a previous post here.
After burning some calories, it’s time to start eating and drinking again. Grab a quick lunch at Pablo’s Pizza in downtown Grand Junction and now it’s time for wine.
Start with Two Rivers Winery & Chateau in Grand Junction; the Syrah and Cab were my favorite here. Afterwards, make the 20 minute drive to Palisade where you can hit multiple wineries within walking or biking distance of one another. We started at Grande River Winery, one of the original wineries on the Western Slope. Just next door is Talon Winery and St. Kathryn Cellars. Talon has traditional wines while St. Kathryn’s stirs things up a bit by offering fruity wines. They even have a lavender wine. Just down the road, we visited Plum Creek Winery where I enjoyed nearly every taster on their list.
We heard wonderful things about Colterris, but were unable to visit them on this trip. I did have one of their reds at Bin 707, and it was a well-rounded, memorable wine.
Before leaving Palisade, be sure to visit Peach Street Distillery. The cliffs of the mesa glowed pink as we pulled into the parking lot just before sunset. It was warm enough to sit on the patio, but every seat was taken, so we sat inside, sipping on sweet, fresh drinks and listening to classical guitar. It was a wonderful way to end a wonderful afternoon.
Note: If you plan to spend the afternoon drinking in Palisade on Day Two, please make someone in your group the designated driver!
For dinner we ate Irish fare at Naggy McGee’s Irish Pub in downtown Grand Junction. This is a popular place, so be prepared for a wait. On a two-day itinerary, beer drinkers may prefer dinner at Kannah Creek Brewing Company. I had a yummy sandwich there on our visit to Grand Junction. Popular with college students, the patio fills up quickly on a nice day.
So there you have it. A two-day itinerary to Grand Junction, and I promise it will not disappoint. Book you trip around one of the Western Slope’s many spring and summer festivals, like the Palisade International Honeybee Festival on April 12-13, or the Art & Jazz Fest in downtown Grand Junction on May 10-12, 2013. For the scoop on other festivals, go to VisitGrandJunction.com.
We genuinely fell in love with the Western Slope during this trip. The landscape + people + food + wine is a winning combination and we can’t wait to visit again.
This trip sponsored by Visit Grand Junction.
It’s Monday, and that means this week’s segment from KRFC 88.9 FM is here!
By the way, September 14-22 is KRFC’s membership drive. This is a 100% community run radio station and it takes donations to keep the doors open. There are all sorts of membership levels to choose from so become a member today and help keep shows like HeidiTown on the air!
Now on to our regular scheduled blog post.
Last week I wrote about agritourism, and on this week’s radio show I share some upcoming agritourism-related events happening around Colorado including harvest festivals and a top-notch foodie event in Denver.