If it weren’t for the old-timers, it would be tough to picture Ketchum when it was second only to Sydney, Australia, as a sheep center. It would be almost impossible to imagine that industry’s cultural richness. And you might miss the chance to dip your fork into a traditional lamb dinner.
Luckily, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival brings this rich history to life. Held over the weekend of October 11-13, the three-day family event feels like bygone days: It’s a small, informal, warm, very Western community celebration. Visitors from across the country are drawn to the festivities, set in the golden glow of fall.
On Saturday, Hailey’s Roberta McKercher Park becomes a cultural center, buzzing with activities at the Folklife Fair. Fiber demonstrations, sheep wagon displays, crafts and more bring the sheep culture to life. Scottish, Basque, and Peruvian music and dance fill the air. More than a thousand people savor a lamb dinner served up by St. Charles Church, which has over fifty years’ experience cooking traditional Basque food. And at Saturday night’s Sheep Tales Gathering, stories come alive as old-time sheep families share remembrances of life during the height of the sheep era.
Also scheduled throughout the weekend are workshops on cooking with lamb, working with wool, and gathering family histories. Writers, poets, essayists, and musicians perform; and a hike into aspen groves north of Ketchum offers an opportunity to examine sheepherder carvings on old tree trunks.
Finally, on Sunday, the parade comes to town! This is no ordinary parade: Ketchum’s Main Street closes to cars and fills with 2,000 sheep, led by the Boise Highlanders bagpipers and the world-renowned Oinkari Basque dancers. The parade traces the migration route herders followed every spring and fall as they moved sheep to and from high-country pastures.
For information, call Diane at 208.726.7568 or the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce at 208.726.3423.