September 26, 2023 - things to do in Hailey
This fall, the Wood River Valley in Idaho comes alive with an event like no other – the Trailing of the Sheep Festival! If you've never heard of it, don't worry; you're in for a treat. This isn't your typical festival. It's a woolly extravaganza, a cultural celebration, and an ode to Idaho's rich sheepherding heritage all rolled into one. From sheep parades that put even the grandest Mardi Gras floats to shame to impressive sheepdog trials that'll leave you wondering if Lassie's cousin is competing, this festival has it all. In this blog post, we'll guide you through the rich history, the exciting activities, and the culinary treasures that await you at this incredible festival. Get ready to be herded into an unforgettable experience like no other and join the festivities that have been charming visitors for over 150 years!
The Trailing of the Sheep Festival finds its roots in the illustrious history of sheep ranching in Idaho’s Wood River Valley. Sheep have been a vital part of human history, providing both sustenance and clothing material. In the late 19th century, John Hailey introduced sheep to the Wood River Valley, where they rapidly became integral to the local economy. By 1890, Idaho boasted a staggering 614,000 sheep.
The festival’s inception in 1997 was a result of community spirit and the desire to celebrate this rich heritage. The Peavey family, deeply entrenched in sheep ranching, hosted informal gatherings, sharing the tradition of trailing sheep and fostering understanding between cyclists and the woolly paraders.
A turning point came when the Peaveys teamed up with the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber & Visitor Bureau (CVB). They saw an opportunity to transform potential conflicts into a cultural celebration. With the CVB’s support, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival was born. It featured the iconic Sheep Parade down Main Street in Ketchum and other festivities that continue to define the event today.
From these modest beginnings, the festival has grown remarkably. Now in its 27th year, it remains true to its core mission: preserving the stories of sheep ranchers, celebrating cultural diversity, and educating visitors about local food and fiber production.
The festival’s impact extends beyond Idaho, earning accolades as one of the world’s top fall festivals. In 2022, it drew over 25,000 attendees from across the globe and contributed nearly $6.2 million to the Valley’s economy.
This is the remarkable journey of how a small coffee-shop gathering evolved into a world-renowned celebration of sheep, culture, and community in the Wood River Valley.
When: Sunday, October 8, 2023 at 12:00nn
Where: Main Street, Ketchum
This charming procession features a flock of 1,500 sheep making their way down Ketchum’s Main Street, guided by dedicated ranching families and herders. It’s an authentic and heartwarming sight, complete with historic sheep wagons and lively dancers from the Footlight Dance Centre. Plus, this year, The Rev. Kathleen Bean, Associate Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ketchum, will bless the flock. After the parade passes, you’re even invited to walk alongside the families as they lead the sheep to their resting place south of town. Please note that no dogs are allowed at this event to ensure the safety of spectators and sheep alike.
When: October 6 & 7 (9:00 am – 5:00 pm) and October 8 (9:00 am – 2:00 pm)
Where: 2400 Buttercup Road, Hailey, Idaho
The Championship Sheepdog Trials are a can’t-miss event during the festival. From October 6 to October 8, 2023, these trials will showcase the incredible skill and agility of both sheepdogs and their handlers. Head over to 2400 Buttercup Road, Hailey, Idaho, to witness the action. There’s a $7.00 entrance fee (children under 5 get in for free), so be sure to bring some cash with you. Since it’s in a natural setting, remember to bring your own lawn chairs for seating. Leashed dogs are welcome at the trials, but please leave your coolers at home. Follow the directions from Highway 75/Main Street in Hailey, and you’ll be there in no time.
Date: Saturday, October 7, 2023
Time: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: Roberta McKercher Park, Hailey
On October 7, 2023, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, head over to Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey for the Folklife Fair, a delightful celebration of sheepherding traditions and local culture. Enjoy sheep shearing demonstrations held every half hour, providing a close-up look at the process. Kids can participate in fun crafts at the Kids’ Fluff booths, and you’ll be treated to live music performances by various cultural groups. Don’t miss Lamb Fest, where you can savor scrumptious lamb dishes created by top chefs and local restaurants. The Fair also features presentations and displays, including visits to authentic sheep camps and booths from organizations like the Idaho Rangeland Resources Commission and the Western Landowners Alliance.
When: October 4-6, 2023
The Trailing of the Sheep Festival has an array of workshops and cooking demonstrations that will get your creative juices flowing. Learn the art of cheese making, discover the secrets of traditional weaving, or indulge in delightful cooking classes that will leave your taste buds dancing with joy. And remember to check out Wool Fest, where you can explore the world of wool crafts, from spinning and felting to knitting and more.
From woolly wonders to lamb-filled feasts, there’s something for everyone. Please note that these classes tend to sell out fast, so be sure to secure your spot early.
For a comfortable and convenient stay during the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, look no further than Mountain Valley Lodge. Nestled in the heart of Hailey, this cozy lodge-style hotel offers the perfect base for festival-goers. Situated just minutes from Sun Valley and Ketchum, the festival’s excitement is right at your doorstep.
At Mountain Valley Lodge, you’ll enjoy a welcoming atmosphere with a complimentary airport shuttle service, a sauna, an indoor pool, and a Jacuzzi to relax in after a day of festival fun. Fuel up with a hearty breakfast before heading out, stay connected with complimentary Wi-Fi, and rest easy knowing that your furry friends are welcome here, too. With the festival fast approaching, book your stay today.