What Not to Miss at the Trailing of the Sheep Festival
Aside from the brilliant transitioning leaves, The Trailing of the Sheep Festival is the highlight of Sun Valley’s fall season. Celebrating sheep and sheep herding traditions, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival offers a unique glimpse into a part of Idaho’s past. Five days of dancing, music, wool classes, lamb dinners, sheep dog trials, and the famous Big Sheep Parade will tantalize the spectrum of senses. The Festival celebrates 27 years, Oct 4-8, 2023. Check out the full schedule here.
The Wood River Valley has a long history of sheep ranching. The first sheep were brought to the valley in the 1860’s and have remained a vital part of Sun Valley’s character. In the early years of the 20th century, Ketchum was one of the largest sheep shipping centers in the world, second only to Sydney, Australia. The latter part of the 20th century saw a decline in the industry but sheep continue to be part of the Wood River Valley story. The Trailing of the Sheep Festival began in 1996 as a celebration of these woolly creatures and the culture surrounding them all while encouraging a dialog between Sun Valley’s influx of residents and the area’s sheep ranchers. The Trailing of the Sheep Festival highlights the annual migration of sheep through the valley and the diverse traditions of herding culture. Along with it includes the products of raising sheep, namely lamb and wool. On average, the festival draws in 25,000 visitors a year and has been touted as one of the best fall festivals in the world. There are many unique opportunities during the Trailing of the Sheep Festival. Below is a list of experiences not to be missed. To see a full schedule of events, visit the Trailing of the Sheep Festival’s website.
For the Love of Lamb Dine Around
The weekend unofficially kicks off with the For Love of Lamb Dine Around. A collection of Ketchum and are pop-up restaurants and chefs, all within walking distance of each other, offer delectable bites of their favorite lamb cuisine. Don’t be late: once the food is gone, it’s gone! Purchase your passports and get more information on the “For the Love of Lamb” Dine Around.
Days: Friday, Saturday & Sunday
Location: 2400 Buttercup Rd – Hailey
The Sheepdog Trials during Trailing of the Sheep are a National Point Qualifying event, bringing in talented dogs and trainers from across the West. A small band of sheep, recently returned from their summer in the mountains, are herded by border collies and their handlers. Handlers show off the skill of their dog by asking them to perform a series of trials including herding the sheep through gates, around the field, and into an enclosed paddock. The handlers rely on their voice, or a whistle, to send commands to their dogs. $7 per person, children under 5 are free. More information on the Sheepdog Trials.
Location: McKercher Park – Hailey
Located at McKercher Park in Hailey, the Folklife Fair is a vibrant celebration of art and culture. Plan to spend a few hours eating a lamb lunch and browsing the vendors selling wool art and other sheep related gifts. Be sure to stop by the shearing station to watch in awe at the ease with which a sheep loses its thick summer coat. A highlight of the Folklife Fair is watching the dancers and musicians representing their sheepherding cultures. Basque, Peruvian and Scottish dancers and musicians dress in traditional cultural clothing and perform throughout the day. Entrance to the Folklife Fair is free. More information on the Folklife Fair.
Big Sheep Parade
The centerpiece of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival is the Big Sheep Parade in Ketchum on Sunday. The parade begins at noon with dance and music from sheepherding cultures, followed by the namesake of the Festival, a band of 1,500 sheep down running down Main Street. This is a small mountain town traffic jam at its finest. The sheep, shy from a summer in the mountains, always put on a lively show. Keep an eye out to see the sheep’s guard dogs, traditionally Pyrenees or Akbash breeds, running within the band.
Parade Etiquette: Stay calm. Stay on the sidewalk curb. No dogs. Keep actions and voices low so as not to spook the sheep. Let the ranchers and herders do their jobs. Be courteous. Have fun!
Here’s a great, quick video from the Trailing of the Sheep Festival that gives an overview of the event:
What are you most looking forward to about the Trailing of the Sheep Festival? Let us know in the comments!