Hot dogs and cold sheep at the Solider Hollow Classic
August 27, 2010
Labor Day in Park City may be all about miners, but in Midway, it’s more about sheepdogs.
The Bank of the West Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship returns Friday, Sept. 3, through Monday, Sept. 6.
Summit County resident Mark Petersen created the Soldier Hollow Classic seven years ago. What started as "a little trial with big dreams," he says, has grown into a world-class event.
Petersen developed the concept for a local event in 1994 after watching a sheepdog championship in the U.K., but he couldn’t find the right venue. He put his dream on the back burner until 2003, when he attended a meeting at Soldier Hollow and realized that it was the perfect place.
Since then, the event has "grown by leaps and bounds," he says. It now holds the highest attendance record for sheepdog events around the world, topping 24,000 spectators in 2009.
Petersen continues to coordinate and direct the event, adding new events and attractions each year. Part of the success of the Classic, he says, is the variety of activities going on simultaneously.
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"I compare it to a big circus," he explains. "The big top is the hillside where the sheepdog competition takes place, but there are lots and lots of small shows going on at the same time."
This year’s sheepdog competition will feature 63 dogs from Scotland, South Africa, Australia, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Canada and the United States, including four from Utah.
According to Petersen, invitations to compete are extended based on performance at selected trials and career records. "It’s the best of the best," he says. That group happens to consist almost exclusively of border collies, he adds.
The competition requires the dogs to gather sheep, guide them through a series of gates and to separate designated sheep into a small pen within a limited amount of time. On the final day, the 15 top dogs from the first three days advance to the Supreme Grand Championship.
Petersen notes that Midway is the only place in the U.S. where people have the opportunity to watch an international competition of such a large the scope and size.
"[The competitors] come for the hillside, which is renowned as one of the toughest courses in the world, and they come to face Utah range sheep, which have been described as being wicked," he says.
In addition to the sheepdog trials, the Classic will feature other canine-centric activities including the Splash Dogs High Flying Dock Jumping Competition, police and military K-9 demonstrations, duck herding and the new Bow Wow Luau, an acrobatic dog show from Missouri that showcases a group of talented rescue dogs.
A border collie rescue organization will be on hand with adoptable animals in case spectators feel the need to return home with their own sheepdog-in-training.
A major addition to this year’s event is daily performances by Mally Lewis and Lamb Chop, the puppet made famous by Mally’s mother, Shari Lewis.
"Since her mother’s death in 1998, Mally has picked up Lamb Chop and preserved what is a real American icon," Petersen says. "In her hands, it’s the same lamb. I think it will be a great opportunity for people to relive a really wonderful part of Americana."
If the return of Lamb Chop isn’t enough to lure children to the event, there are plenty of other kid-friendly activities scheduled, including a coloring contest, find-the-lost-sheep game, face painting, a rifle shoot on Soldier Hollow’s Olympic Range and the Wild Wonders Animal Show. Any family can get in and spend the day for $35 to $40, Petersen says.
That includes food, which has always been a primary focus of the event. Patrons can find everything from ethnic dishes to hamburgers and hot dogs, he says. New vendors this year include Salt Lake City-based eateries Moochie’s Meatballs and The Pie Pizzeria.
Each food vendor sells at least one lamb entrée, Petersen notes. "There probably is more lamb eaten at this event every year than any other event in the western United States," he says.
Cultural offerings at the event are not limited to the food, he adds. The Adopt-a-Native Elder organization from Park City will sponsor an authentic Navajo Rug Show; the I.F.A. Country Festival will feature a wide assortment of crafts, activities and demonstrations; and the Salt Lake Scots are slated to perform daily.
Tickets to the Soldier Hollow Classic are available online at or at the gate. Prices vary by day and discounts and family packages are available. For more information, to purchase tickets, and to view a full schedule of events, go to http://www.soldierhollowclassic.com .