Trailing of the Sheep Festival Celebrates 25 Years

Published online: Sep 24, 2021 Articles, Events, Lifestyle
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Photo provided by Carol Waller

SUN VALLEY - Sheep have been trailing through the Wood River Valley of Idaho for well over a century. For the past 25 years, sheepherding, history, culture, and food, have been the focus of the annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival held each fall in the Sun Valley area of Idaho and recognized as one of the “Top Ten Fall Festivals in the World” by msn.com.

For its 25th anniversary, October 6-10, 2021, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival is planning a special celebration, with new programs and events, including the unveiling and dedication of The Good Shepherd Monument, a legacy tribute which includes eleven life-sized bronze sculptures featuring eight sheep, a sheepherder, horse, and dog to be installed in Hailey.

The Festival honors the 150+ year annual tradition of moving sheep (‘trailing’) from high mountain summer pastures down through the Valley to traditional winter grazing and lambing areas in the south.  This annual migration is living history and the focus of a unique and authentic Festival that celebrates the people, arts, cultures, and traditions of sheep ranching in Idaho and the West. 

The five-day Festival includes nonstop activities in multiple venues - history, folk arts, a Sheep Folklife Fair, lamb culinary offerings, a Wool Festival with classes and workshops, music, dance, storytelling, championship Sheepdog Trials and, the always entertaining, Big Sheep Parade with 1,500 sheep hoofing it down Main Street in Ketchum. 

2021 Festival Highlights Include:

  • Big Sheep Parade with 1,500 sheep trailing down Main Street in Ketchum
  • Championship Sheepdog Trials with 100 of the county’s most talented border collies competing for prizes
  • Sheep Folklife Fair featuring the Basque, Scottish, and Peruvian dancers and musicians, sheep shearing, folk, fiber and traditional artists, children’s activities and more
  • Sheep Tales Gathering will present author and essayist Gretel Ehrlich who will share stories from her latest book "Unsolaced: Along the Way to All That Is" - tales of arduous expeditions, observations, meditations, and conversations on trips from the Arctic to Zimbabwe and more - stories of land, communities, families and traditions now affected by climate chaos even in the most remote places she traveled.
  • 25th Anniversary Celebration PERUVIAN BALLET FOLKLORICA, performed by the Utah Hispanic Dance Alliance and Chaskis Peruvian Musicians, and focusing on Andean Music and Dance.
  • Culinary Events with lamb tastings, Lamb Fest at the Folklife Fair, lamb cooking classes, and Farm to Table Lamb Dinners
  • Wool Fest with classes and workshops
  • Hikes and Histories featuring Idaho’s sheep ranchers and renowned storytellers
  • Happy Trails Closing Party in the Ketchum Town Square with live music by Cindy & Gary Braun and Gator Nation in partnership with the Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival.

New Trailing of the Sheep Festival Cookbook and Quilt Raffle

In celebration of its 25th year anniversary, the Festival is presenting its new Trailing of the Sheep Festival Cookbook that features authentic recipes from Idaho ranch families and festival friends for dishes like Sheepherder Bread, Basque Rice, Turkish Lamb Kabobs, Tagine of Lamb and more. The cookbook will be available for sale during the Festival at all locations selling Festival merchandise. 

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival quilt raffle is for a special 25th anniversary quilt, made up of 15 individually created sheep related quilt squares and designed to be a twin sized bed topper or a wall hanging.  Raffle tickets will be available for sale at the Festival October 6-10, 2021, with the drawing for the winner held at the Festival’s Happy Trails Closing Party on October 10.

Festival History

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival began in 1996 when local ranchers John and Diane Peavey of the Flat Top Sheep Company invited the public to ‘trail’ with their sheep through the backstreets of Ketchum on a fall morning to learn about the history of sheepherding in the valley. This was in response to the rapid loss of farms and ranches, growth in Idaho and the West, and arrival of new residents who had little knowledge of the sheep industry and its history. The following year, in 1997, the Peavey’s met with the local Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber & Visitor Bureau and together they created a multi-day event to showcase the area’s unique cultural heritage and invite visitors to come during the beautiful fall season to experience an authentic slice of the American West.

While the Festival has expanded greatly from its humble beginnings, the goals and objectives remain the same - preserving the stories and history of sheep ranchers and herders, celebrating the rich cultures of the past and present, and entertaining and educating all about the production of food and fiber that have sustained local economies for generations. The Festival is a unique, extended weekend that celebrates the culture, folk and traditional arts and history of Idaho's sheep ranching families highlighting the principal contributors - the Basques, Scottish and Peruvians. 

For information, tickets, schedule of events and special lodging deals, visit www.trailingofthesheep.org.

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