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There's something for everyone at the All-American Sheep Day of the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo. 

"It's just a good all-around thing for the young, for everybody who isn't familiar with raising sheep," said John Kaiser, a Rapid City resident and chairman of the sheep dog trials. "Anything pertaining to sheep will be there," said Kaiser, calling the event an educational one that's fun for the entire family.

Sheep day is Jan. 31 in the James Kjerstad Event Center at the Central States Fairgrounds in Rapid City. Show-goers can watch sheep dog trials and sheep shearing contests, watch and learn how to make wool on an old-fashioned spinning wheel, sample lamb BBQ and jerky, participate in livestock auctions, buy sheep products, pet the animals, and more. 

The event attracts workers in the sheep industry from across the United States and Canada, Kaiser said. The Northern Plains states — the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana — produce 20 percent of all sheep in the U.S., according to the sheep day website. 

Kaiser said he expects 140-150 sheep, up to 65 dogs and 20-22 handlers to participate in the sheep dog trials, a timed herding event with obstacles. 

The course remains the same as previous years, Kaiser said. But what makes it fun to watch, he said, is the unpredictability of how the sheep will react to the dogs, and how the dogs, mostly border collies, will listen to their handlers. 

"These dogs are trained that when (the handlers) whistle a certain sound, they turn left, they turn right," Kaiser said. 

During the contest, a dog must navigate three sheep around corners and over obstacles such as bridges and into a pen in less than four-and-a-half minutes, he said. Some dogs achieve the feat in as quick as two-and-a-half minutes. 

"Sheep are hard to work with" and can be "quite bullheaded," Kaiser said. He said sheep may try to kick the dogs but the dogs will be disqualified if they bite back.  

The trials begin at 11 a.m, Kaiser said. At 7 p.m., the competition takes a break for a mutton busting, an event when children ride sheep. The 16 semi-finalists from the trials return around 7:30 p.m and the contest ends with the top 10 finalists competing for the fastest course time. 

The sheep shearing contest is also timed and participants with fast-enough results can qualify for international contests, Kaiser said. 

"There's only so many ways you can shear a sheep," but it gets challenging when the animals try to misbehave and kick, he said. 

A sheepdog will be sold at the event, with the profits going to the Make a Wish Foundation, which will have a booth at the sheep day event, Kaiser said. He said people will also use sheep fiber to create a quilt that will be donated to a hospice organization. 

Sheep day tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children ages 7-12, and free for children 6 and under, and allow patrons to leave and return to the fairgrounds throughout the day. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit blackhillsstockshow.com/events/2019/all-american-sheep-day.

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— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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