The final highlight of the annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival is the parade of some 2,000 ewes down Main Street in Ketchum.
Express photo by Willy Cook
This time of year, sheep cultures around the Northern Hemisphere bring their animals down from summer pastures in the high country. The annual ritual is often accompanied by celebrations of cultural heritage, food and music.
The Wood River Valley’s 18th annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival takes place Oct. 9-12, celebrating a region that used to be one of the largest wool-producing areas in the U.S. For more than 150 years, sheep have been a part of Blaine County history.
The four-day festival includes numerous activities in multiple venues, from Sun Valley to Hailey. The Folk Life Fair features Basque, Scottish, Polish and Peruvian dancers and music, sheep shearing, sheep wagon displays, storytelling sessions, sheep and wool exhibits, children’s activities and lamb dishes created by local chefs. The events also include a two-day Championship Sheepdog Trial with 50 of the most talented border collies in the U.S.
The Trailing of the Sheep Festival is living history. The events take place prior to an actual sheep drive that will bring a flock of 2,000 ewes down Main Street in Ketchum and southward to Hailey. Father Ken Brannon of St. Thomas Episcopal Church will conduct a “blessing the flock” as they pass through Ketchum.
The four-day festival has garnered its share of top accolades, including recognition as one of the Top Ten Fall Festivals in the World by msn.com travel, Top Ten U.S. Fall Festivals by smartertravel.com, and Top Ten Fall Festivals by USA Today. The festival has been named one of the greatest cultural events in the West by Northwest Travel, and is the recipient of the Idaho Governor’s Award for Cultural Heritage.
This year, the festival begins a three-year program called “Celebrating Generations,” during which participants will be invited to share stories from the West. Ranching families will be attending from around the West to share their stories and help trail the sheep through the Wood River Valley.
Highlights of the
Thursday through Sunday:Lamb-cooking classes at various venues.
Friday: Ketchum’s Western Folklife Center and Heritage Museum Presentation & Open House: “The History of American Sheep Ranching in the West and the Ranching Heritage of the Wood River Valley,” at Community Library, 419 Spruce Ave., Ketchum. From 3-4:30 p.m. Free.
Sheep Tales Gathering featuring Hank Volger and other renowned storytellers at 7 p.m. at the nexStage Theatre, Ketchum. $20 for adults.
Saturday and Sunday: Championship Sheepdog Trials at Quigley Canyon field in east Hailey (dawn to dusk). Organized by the International Dog Handlers and Stock Dog Association, this two-day trial is sanctioned by the U.S. Border Collie Handlers Association.
Saturday: Sheep Folk Life Fair at Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This popular fair provides demonstrations of sheep shearing, displays of sheep wagons, crafts for children, spinning and weaving demonstrations by regional and local artisans and lamb dishes served by top chefs and restaurants. The fair includes performances by Peruvian musicians and dancers, Oinkari Basque dancers, Boise Highlanders, Scottish bagpipers, drummers and dancers, and the Polish Highlanders folk musicians and dancers.
Sunday: “History of Sheepherding in the Wood River Valley” at Starbucks and the Sun Valley Visitor Center, Sun Valley Road, Ketchum, from 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Trailing of the Sheep Parade at noon. Main Street, Ketchum. Join an authentic trailing of the sheep down Ketchum’s Main Street.
For more information, go to www.trailingofthesheep.org.
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org