Trailing of the Sheep Festival keeps valley tradition alive
By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer
Tradition. That is what Trailing of the Sheep is
all about. Record crowds turned out for the weekend celebration of the area's sheep
industry and culture. A band of sheep trot down Ketchum's Main Street to the delight of
onlookers. ( Express photo by Willy Cook)
Perhaps sensing the inevitability of progress and the loss of tradition
that often accompanies it, record crowds lined Ketchums Main Street on Sunday to
catch a glimpse of history at the Trailing of the Sheep event.
The appearance of a band of sheep on Main Street was the culmination of
last weekends festival, a celebration of the century-old sheep industry and its
culture that has woven itself into the fabric of modern day Wood River Valley.
Festival founder Diane Peavey, who started the event with her husband
John in the early 1990s, said that in a time when the valley is experiencing tremendous
growth, the running of the sheep is a way to keep people connected with the past and to
preserve the valleys rural history.
"The Trailing of the Sheep Festival is a way for families in the
sheep industry to share their experiences with newcomers to the valley so they have a
sense of the community they live in," Peavey said in an interview.
In the late 1860s, John Hailey brought the first sheep into the Wood
River Valley at a time when there was said to be 14,000 sheep in all of Idaho. As the
mining boom faded in the valley, the sheep industry began to play a larger role in the
economy of the area.
In 1918, there were as many as 2.6 million sheep statewide. The Wood
River Valley was second only to Sidney, Australia as the sheep center capital of the
However, over the years, depressed prices, restrictions on grazing
lands and the use of synthetic fabrics forced many families out of the sheep industry.
Today there are less than 285,000 sheep in Idaho.
The men and women of Faulkner Land and Livestock hosted this
years Trailing of the Sheep, carrying on a family tradition dating back to 1945 when
the Faulkners first shipped lambs out of Ketchum.
The family began moving sheep through the Wood River Valley in 1959.
Bands of sheep travel north in the summer to high mountain pastures and return south in
the fall to pastures in California and Arizona.
The Trailing of the Sheep Festival also included the voices of
third-generation herders and tales of tradition brought to life in storytelling sessions
at the Community Library in Ketchum. According to Carrol Waller, Ketchum-Sun Valley
Chamber of Commerce executive director, the storytelling event attracted capacity crowds
to the library.
"It was so neat to see all these old timers who have been involved
in the sheep industry for so many years and the peoples interest in the stories they
had to tell," Waller said.
A sheep rancher demonstrates the art of sheep shearing at the
Trailing of the Sheep Festival in Hailey. (Express photo by Willy Cook)
The sheep Folklife Fair at Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey saw a
cultural celebration of the ancient nomadic way of life. The fair included a sheep herding
display by border collies, sheep shearing demonstrations and history exhibits highlighted
by Basque and Peruvian folk musicians and dancers.
According to Waller, this years Trailing of the Sheep Festival
was a big success with about 2,000 spectators taking part in both the procession down
Ketchums Main Street and the Folklife Fair in Hailey.
"The fact that sheep are still trailing through a town in
todays modern world makes the Trailing of the Sheep Festival a very unique event in
the West," Waller said. "The reason the event was started was to educate people
about the rich history and tradition of the Wood River Valley as the community develops