Last weekend, thousands of people headed to Ketchum, Hailey, and Sun Valley for one of Idaho's biggest and best fall events. The Trailing of the Sheep Festival is a longstanding Wood River Valley tradition and a tribute to Idaho’s legacy of sharing the land with the sheep.
Since the 1800's, sheep have been grazed and herded throughout the valley. They summer in high mountain pastures and winter on the valley floor. In the 1990's, the Blaine County Rec District built our beloved bike path, running the length of the valley. While this was a boon for recreationalists, a large portion of pathway that was also traditionally used by the sheep during their migration. Some individuals who were using the path for recreational purposes struggled with sharing the space.
“John and Diane Peavey, the founders (of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival), told some people, ‘Come have a cup of coffee and we’ll explain the migratory path of the sheep, and then you can actually walk with the sheep down the path,’” says Festival Director Laura Drake. Over time, both the path-users and the sheep herders became more comfortable with sharing the space. Many recreation users now recognize that the sheep not only help to keep the sides of the path free from invasive plants, but also add to the ambiance of their rides.
The first parade down Ketchum’s Main Street was in 1996, marking the launch of the festival in its current form. Last year, 26,000 people from 36 states, and eight different countries attended.
“The festival is a celebration and a preservation of the history and cultures of sheepherding and sheep ranching in Idaho and the west. It was born out of the need to educate people,” says Drake. .