Friday, October 9, 2009

A festival of learning, too

Few special events anywhere can equal the full panoply of color, education and festiveness of this weekend's Trailing of the Sheep gala that falls into the category of a "don't-miss-this" celebration.

This is the equivalent of opening a time capsule. An array of activities valleywide will recount and celebrate the history of sheep dating back 100 years, when bands of the wooly animals dominated the area's economy.

Songs, handicrafts and dances of the sheepherders' Basque, Peruvian and Polish cultures will be on display. Educational sessions will highlight folk tales and the economic benefits of wool and lamb meat products.

Of course, the climax will be a spectacle rare for these times—hundreds of sheep pouring southward down Main Street in Ketchum, accompanied by shepherds and colorfully costumed celebrants, signifying the annual end of summer's mountain grazing and the return of sheep to grazing in winter's warmer, lowland pastures.

Recognizing that in fast-moving modern America so much of our robust frontier history has been ignored, far-sighted festival organizers have preserved in this annual celebration a portrayal of Idaho when sheep ruled and life was harsher. In so many ways, this living history is more dramatic and memorable than pages of a school textbook and a vital addition to the Wood River Valley's lifestyle.

Truly, Trailing of the Sheep Festival is something for all ages, from children to seniors, and not just for feasting the eyes but for enriching the mind as well.

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