Trailing of the Sheep Festival

sheep on hillsideWay back in the "olden days," Idaho was sheep country. Millions of the "woolies" scuttled through the sage and munched their way across the landscape. Each fall the "Trailing of the Sheep" festival in Ketchum honors that tradition.

"Twenty five or thirty years ago, everybody probably had a grandfather that had lived on a farm," says festival organizer John Peavey. "There's a hunger in people to understand what does go on, on the land."

Some of the first sheepherders in Idaho were Basque. They left Europe for greener pastures and eventually ended up in the sagebrush of Idaho. They brought with them rich traditions of food and dance and music.

basque dancersTo honor that century-old tradition, sheepherders move their flocks from summer pastures in the mountains north of the resort towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley, south through the Wood River Valley to winter desert grazing areas. And for one afternoon during the Festival, the sheep actually parade right down Ketchum's Main Street.

Organizers call their Trailing of the Sheep festival America's version of The Running of the Bulls.

For dog trainer Tish Lewis, the border collie is a symbol of that old lifestyle. "I think there's some of us diehards who love to see the old traditions, and we still use sheep for so many things. I don't think people realize all the things we use sheep for. And how important they are to everything."

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