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Baaa-lking Sheep Don’t Spoil Parade
Monday, October 9, 2017


Maybe it’s time to send the sheep an official invite to the party held in their honor.

Surprised by the sight of 75 out-of-towners who had showed up to photograph them coming down into Ketchum from  sagebrush-covered hills, 1,500 sheep baaa-lked and ran down a different canyon much further north.

They’re weren’t b-aaaaad. They were just shy.

And the presence of so many people lining the ridgelines north of Big Wood Golf Course after months of being alone in the backcountry was unnerving.

The detour made them late to their own party—the annual Trailing of the Sheep Parade down Main Street Ketchum.

Fortunately, organizers were able to start the parade within 20 minutes of the appointed hour, and Gooding sheep rancher John Faulkner’s sheep were well behaved. They displayed the udder most manners as they trotted down Main Street past spectators like Carrie Morrow and Joyce Fabre who wore little sheep ears.

Massive crowds turned out for the parade, despite a weather forecast that had predicted a storm to roll through just about the time the parade started.

“It just gets bigger every year,” said Don Liebich, whose words were echoed by fellow crowd-control volunteer Ruth Liebich.

Those expecting a storm weren’t disappointed as snow began falling briskly just before the sheep took the stage. The crowd greeted the snowstorm with a roar, just as they had the dancers who twirled their way down the street.

A member of the Boise Highlanders rubbed his hands, warming them up, before wrapping his mouth back around the mouthpiece of his bagpipe.

“Bagpipes can get out of tune when it’s cold,” he said.

“But would anybody know?” laughed one of the spectators lining the parade route.

Alberto Uranga recalled how he, a fisherman’s son from the Basque country, had decided sheepherding was his ticket to come to America.

He went out with a band of sheep in March of 1968 and didn’t return to civilization until mid-December as he trailed the sheep from Big Smoky west of Ketchum up to Baker Creek and then headed south to Soldier Mountain and Hill City.

“I love the sheep parade,” said Uranga, now an accountant who serves on the board of the festival.

Lynn Stewart, office manager for Hotel Ketchum due to open in December in the site of the old Clarion Inn, enlisted the help of her children Angel and Desman Stewart and their friend Oliver Buchanan in handing out hot popcorn to the passersby.

They were ringed by foot-tall plastic sheep called Dotties, which will be placed in each guest room. And, even as they handed out popcorn, pet portrait artist Molly Snee painted a mural that will eventually feature two sheep with the words “Lucky Ewe” on the north side of the building.

“We wanted to come up with a theme that celebrated the local heritage and we decided sheep were warm and fuzzy—just the thing for a hotel,” said Stewart. “We plan to open a fair trade coffee house in April and we’ll name it Sheep Town Coffee.”

In no time, the sheep had passed people who had climbed up scaffolding at the new performing arts center. They trotted down the bike path towards the counting bridge, where herders would count them before allowing them to drink out of the river and bed down for the night.

And many of those who had lined the streets headed north to Neal Canyon where sheep rancher John Peavey showed them pictures of horsemen and churches sheepherders had carved into aspen bark decades earlier.

They endured a 20-minute blizzard, which seemed to thrill those who had come from Florida and other southern states no end.

“Huge turnout! Well done event!” said Ketchum resident David Hitchin.

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