It began because of a bike path: The railroad trail that Sun Valley herders had been using for a century was paved over. Ranchers like John and Diane Peavey began receiving complaints from newer residents. So, that fall they invited the community to join them as they ushered their flocks down from the mountains. This became the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, now in its 27th year. The week-long, annual festival and parade goes off in Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho to celebrate the Wood River Valley’s sheep and wool industry — the multicultural and multifaceted backbone of the region’s economy since the late 1800s — and the West.
Catch the National Point Qualifying Sheepdog Trials ($7, bring folding chairs), where you can watch prodigy border collies zoom and zigzag around flocks of sheep. Other activities include a variety of cooking classes, talks, tastings, demonstrations, a farm-to-table lamb dinner (at the Argyros Performing Arts Center), and wool workshops (including felting, navajo-style spinning and indigenous salish weaving) which are part of the wool festival, which is a festival within the festival. On Saturday, head to the Folklife Fair, where you can browse upwards of 80 vendors and watch music and dance performances from the valley’s main ranching cultural traditions: Scottish, Basque and Peruvian.
If nothing else, make sure you’re there for the Big Sheep Parade on Sunday, when 1,500 sheep bumble down Ketchum’s Main Street, heralded in by traditional folk musicians, then blessed by local religious leaders — it’s like a parting of a wooly sea. After the sheep pass, walk with the ranchers to the herd’s winter pastures.
- In 2022, 25,000 sheep trail-ers from 47 states and nine foreign countries attended the five-day festival.
- Major events of the festival, including the Trailing of the Sheep, Folklife Fair, talks and exhibits, are free. Other activities require separate tickets (see the schedule and activity pricing here).
- The festival has been recognized as a Top Ten Fall Festivals in the World by msn.com travel, Top Ten US Fall Festivals by smartertravel.com.
- Flying into Boise? Check out Fifty Grande’s guide to this hoppin’ western city here.
What is the closest airport to the Trailing of the Sheep Festival 2023?
In October for the festival, visitors can fly directly into Idaho’s Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN), about 13 miles from the festival ground, on Delta, United, and Alaska. Otherwise, the closest airports are Boise, ID (BOI, 2.5 hours and 150 miles southwest of Sun Valley), and Twin Falls, ID (TWF, 1.5 hours and 87 miles south).
What’s the exact address of the festival?
In Ketchum: Ketchum Town Square and Ketchum’s Main Street, 151 Main St S, Ketchum, ID 83340, USA.
In Hailey: Roberta McKercher Park, 980 S. Main Street, Hailey, ID 83333, USA.
It’s my first time attending. What should I expect at the annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival?
This annual festival celebrates sheep ranchers and sheepherding, so the stars here are sheep herders, Idaho’s sheep ranching families and the historical contributors to the culture: the Basques, Scottish and Peruvians.
Are dogs allowed?
No, please leave your pets at home. Sheep and herding dogs might view them as a threat.
Once I get to the festival, what’s the best way to get around?
If you don’t want to deal with traffic and parking, Mountain Rides Bus Service is your best bet — the festival events are spread throughout the towns of Ketchum, Sun Valley, and Hailey. The bus is free.
What is the email address for the festival?