Get Ready for a Wild and Wooly Weekend

The wildest, woolliest, (dare I say cutest?), and most unique celebration is coming baa-ck to the Wood River Valley early next month and it’s a don’t-miss. For the 21st year, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival brings the popular and colorful Folklife Fair, sheep dog trials, Wool Fest, and of course, the Trailing of the Sheep Parade to Hailey, Ketchum, and Sun Valley. From Wednesday, October 4, to Sunday, October 8, prepare to be immersed in western history, culture, crafts, and cuisine.

A sea of sheep parade down Ketchum’s Main Street at the culmination of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, is just one of the colorful, enriching, and appetizing options during the five-day event

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival, for those of you who have yet to experience it, celebrates the region’s rich sheepherding and ranching history. According to the organization’s website, “In the southwest region of Idaho, it is said that John Hailey brought the first sheep into the Wood River Valley in the late 1860’s.” They were soon an integral part of the local economy and in 1918, the sheep population is said to have reached a staggering 2.65 million, meaning more than six times as many sheep as people roamed our valleys and mountains! Sheep ranching was a major part of our history, and brought influences from the Scottish and Basque to the region. During this glorious fall weekend, all of that is honored, and sheep, from their contribution of beautiful wool and wonderful, nutritious food, are celebrated.

The many groups and cultures that contributed to the region’s rich sheepherding and ranching culture are celebrated during the festival

Ranked as “One of the Top Ten Fall Festivals in the World” by msn.com, the five-day event is jam-packed. For a full list of events, please log onto http://www.trailingofthesheep.org, but here are some top events to put on your calendar:

Folklife Fair
On Saturday, October 7, head to Hailey’s Roberta McKercher Park for a feast for the eyes, ears, and stomach. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Folklife Fair, check out sheep shearing, traditional spinning and weaving demonstrations, kids’ craft activities, traditional performances, and more than 50 vendors selling unique arts and crafts. The juried show requires vendors to offer handmade items made exclusively of wool, alpaca, wool blends, and items of ‘sheep nature’ including soaps and lotions from lanolin, and delicious sheep cheeses. There is also photography highlighting sheep and ranch life and theme-appropriate designs in pottery, toys, and even jewelry. There is food galore, most lamb-based, including The “Lamb Fest” where top local chefs prepare their favorite dishes. Local Idaho wines as well as beer and soft drinks are also on offer. Don’t forget live music (Scottish bagpipes are a highlight), Basque dancers, a quilt show, and much more. This is a great way to enjoy a beautiful autumn day outdoors with the family.

The Folklife Fair is full of wonderful, unique, handmade items, all celebrating wool and sheep

Delicious Eats
If you like lamb, there is absolutely no better place to enjoy countless delicious preparations than during the Trailing of the Sheep Festival! From the aforementioned causal “Lamb Fest” at the Folklife Fair, to specials at most local restaurants, your taste buds will be as entertained as you are. In Ketchum, don’t miss the “For the Love of Lamb” event on Friday, October 6, starting at 4:30 p.m. The city’s top restaurants will prepare their best lamb dishes, all for $5/bite per restaurant.  This fun dine-around includes roasted leg of lamb with chimichurri sauce and scalloped potatoes at Cristina’s Restaurant & Bakery; wild rice lamb meatballs at Enoteca; cumin lamb sausage pizza with sundried tomato gremolatta & Feta at the Limelight Hotel Lounge; a lamb belly BLT at the Warfield Distillery & Brewery; lamb stroganoff at The Sawtooth Club; Moroccan Lamb Tangine at Town Square Tavern; Moroccan lamb puff pastry at Whiskey Jacques’; lamb carnitas at Raspberry’s; roasted leg of lamb at Rominna’s; and lamb gyros at The Haven. In addition to the dine-around, nearly every excellent eatery in Ketchum and Sun Valley will offer lamb specials during the Festival weekend. Many Hailey restaurateurs are also in a lamb state of mind with both casual eateries and fine dining establishments preparing mouth-watering specials.

The home chef will also be delighted during the long weekend by the opportunity to take Cooking with Lamb classes offered by many top chefs. Pre-registration is required and the classes are very popular so don’t wait to sign up!

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival is not only just plain fun, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the history of sheepherding in the region, including the important contributions by the Basque

Culture and History
On Friday, October 6, get all your sheep ranching questions answered by lifelong experts in all things sheep. This event takes place at the Community Library in Ketchum and it’s free. A documentary entitled “The Shepherdess of the Glaciers” will be shown, also on October 6. This award-winning film focuses on a shepherdess and her flock of 250 sheep and cashmere goats in the high Himalayas. The screening will take place at 7 p.m. at the Sun Valley Opera House. Tickets are $20 for adults. In addition, during the Folklife Fair there will be a presentation on “The Story of Wool” (October 7 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.), and on Sunday, John Peavey of the Flat Top Sheep Company will present on the “History of Sheepherding in the Wood River Valley” at the Sun Valley Visitor Center in Ketchum. Another special way to enjoy the region’s history is to walk through area aspen groves on a guided tour of sheepherder tree carvings. John Peavey leads this informative and entertaining hike on Sunday, October 8, at 2 p.m. starting at the Forest Service Park in Ketchum. A shuttle will transport participants or you can follow in your car. For more on these events, please click HERE.

Sheep Dog Trials
One of the most popular events of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival is watching amazing sheepdogs at work at the Championship Sheepdog Trials on October 6 and 7 from dawn until dusk, and again on October 8 from dawn until 2 p.m. The action takes place at the Quigley Canyon Fields in Hailey and it really is something to see these dogs in their element. Lawn chairs are welcome, coolers are not, and the entrance fee is $3 with children under five, free.

From sheepdog trials to a glimpse at historic sheep wagons, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival is a feast for the eyes (and stomach!)

The Big Parade
“The sheep are coming! The sheep are coming!” The cries of parade-goers big and small ring out when folks on the northerly end of the parade route see the first wooly faces coming down Main Street. But while the sheep are the stars of the parade, there is much to enjoy before the gallivanting antics of thousands of sheep begin. The big show takes place on Sunday, October 8, on Ketchum’s Main Street at high noon. This is actually the route of more than 1,500 sheep on their way from summer to winter pastures and they entertain on their way through as they run and leap over one another. It’s quite a sight! The parade also includes historic sheep wagons, Basque dancers, traditional Scottish music, and much more.  It’s great fun for everyone – just please leave your dogs at home! This is living Idaho history and something you really shouldn’t miss.

This child’s expression says it all – the sheep parade is pretty amazing! Don’t miss it or any of the other wonderful family-friendly Trailing of the Sheep Festival activities

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