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Trailing of the Sheep Festival Celebrates Silver Jubilee
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Thursday, October 7, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

It’s billed as “a treasure chest of collected stories and memories” about the traditions, families and food of sheep ranchers.

And the “Trailing of the Sheep Festival Cookbook” would seem a perfect way to commemorate 25 years of sheep parades through Ketchum, along with a 25th anniversary commemorative quilt and the dedication of a statue of a sheepherder and his sheep.

“Our 25th anniversary—you can’t just let it slip by,” said Flat Top Sheep Rancher Diane Josephy Peavey, who founded the festival with her husband John Peavey. “You have to look back and realize what an amazing event it’s become.”

The recipes include Israeli Lamb Couscous, Morel Crusted Lamb Loin, Lamb Jagerschnitzel and Kathleen Bean’s Lamb Curry.

Available at the Trailing of the Sheep Festival headquarters at Ketchum’s Limelight Hotel, it features recipes from Chris Kastner of CK’s, best-selling author Mark Kurlansky, Ketchum Grill Chef Scott Mason and, of course, Ranchers Diane and John Peavey. Comments accompanying the recipes give a glimpse into the lives of some of the contributors—say, of Louise Savala Etcheverry, who ran a Basque boarding house, cooked for the sheepherders at the lambing sheds and prepared amazing meals for her family.

“She was a culinary fairy godmother that could make something out of nothing,” said her granddaughter Dominique Etcheverry. “She crushed garlic with the heel of her hand, was generous with olive oil and was always the last person to sit down to one of her flavorful Basque meals.”

Food has been a huge part of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival from its beginning, with a growing number of lamb cooking classes and lamb dishes prepared by local chefs trotted out to show lamb skeptics that lamb can be tasty and more nutritious than some other cuts of meat.

The festival has also given sheepherders, sheep ranchers and others the chance to tell their stories of life on the range, educating and entertaining people as they do.

It was an effort to tell the decades-old story of how herders trailed sheep from the desert through the Wood River Valley to summer pastures in the mountain that served as the genesis for the festival. That moment came in the 1990s shortly after the Blaine County Recreation District built a bike path on the old railroad right of way, which also had been used to move the sheep.

“Could you PLEASE get your sheep off our new bike path?” irate callers asked the Peaveys. “They’re leaving little brown turds all over the path and they’re getting stuck in our bicycle spokes.”

“It was an election year and John was running for state senate. And, when you’re running for office, the last thing you want is people screaming at you to get sheep off the bike path,” recounted Diane Josephy Peavey. “So, to calm everybody down, we invited people to join us for coffee at the Western Café so we could tell our story of how we trail sheep in the hopes they would understand.”

Show up people did. And they not only wanted to listen to the stories but they wanted to see the sheep. Pretty soon, even schoolteachers were asking to bring their classes out to walk with the sheep.

As word spread and curiosity grew, the Peaveys partnered with the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce to create a festival in 1997. They staged a sheep parade through Ketchum and invited fellow sheep ranchers to join in. Now, 25 years later, the festival is a boon to the valley, providing $4.5 million annual economic impact and attracting visitors from 47 states and 29 countries in 2019.

Its unique authenticity has made it a media darling, landing it on USA Today’s “Ten Best Fall Festivals in the U.S.” list, msn.com’s “One of the Top Ten Fall Festivals in the World” list and dozens more.

“When we first started it, we had no idea where it was going. We were just trying to reach out to the community and say we can all live together,” Diane Peavey lived. “People love it—they say it’s like going back in time for a weekend. We celebrate the Scots and Peruvians, who have been so influential in the sheep industry throughout the West. We celebrate taking care of the animals and the land and the culture and all who have chosen to live here and their stories of survival.

“This festival says, ‘This is where you live and this is who we are.’ And that’s important when everything around us is changing so rapidly.”

Festival organizers will unveil the Good Shepherd Monument, a life-sized sculpture of a sheepherder, his horse, dog and eight sheep created by sculptor Danny D. Edwards Saturday morning at Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey.

Best-selling author Gretel Ehrlich, who has herded sheep in Wyoming’s mountains, will describe her love for the land at Friday night’s Sheep Tales Gathering at The Argyros. And the Utah Hispanic Dance Alliance will present a Peruvian Ballet Folklorica performance Saturday night at The Argyros.

The popular sheepdog trials have expanded to four days with 100 dogs getting two opportunities to pen sheep beginning today and running through Sunday. And the festival will raffle off a 25th anniversary quilt featuring squares contributed by quilters from throughout Southern Idaho.

“The quilt is a unique one-of-a-kind quilt that will never be made again because of it was individuals that submitted squares for it,” said Laura Musbach Drake, executive director of the festival.

IF YOU GO…

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival features several cooking classes, as well as classes teaching people to make things with wool. Here are some of the other highlights:

TODAY THROUGH SUNDAY

The Sheepdog Trials kick off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Quigley Canyon field in Hailey and run  through Sunday when the finals will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is $5 with children under 5 admitted free.

Festival Headquarters with merchandise and more will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum.

FRIDAY, Oct. 8

2:30-4 p.m. Sheep Ranching Questions and Answers with Ranchers Cory Peavey, Laird Noh and Cindy Siddoway at the Community Library Donaldson Robb Family Lawn in Ketchum.

4:30 p.m. For the Love of Lamb, with ticketholders give the opportunity to walk through Ketchum and sample at least five lamb dishes from Ketchum restaurants.

7 p.m. Sheep Tales Gathering with Gretel Ehrlich at The Argyros.

SATURDAY, Oct. 9

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Folklife Fair at Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey. The free event includes music and dancing featuring Basque, Peruvian and Scottish performers, sheep shearing demonstrations, dozens of wool craft and other vendors.

8 p.m. Peruvian Ballet Folklorica at The Argyros.

SUNDAY, Oct. 10

9-11:30 a.m. Free Sheep Photography Outing leaves from the Ketchum Post Office at 151 4th St. in Ketchum and heads to the hills near the Big Wood Golf Course.

10 a.m.-3 p.m. Free Happy Trails Festival Closing Party with vendors, Western music by Gary and Cindy Braun and food and drink for sale in the Ketchum Town Square.

Noon—Free Trailing of the Sheep Parade on Ketchum’s Main Street, featuring 1,500 sheep, dancers, music and sheep wagons

2-3:30 p.m. Free Sheepherder Hike and Stories with Rancher John Peavey, who will lead people to a canyon near Ketchum where sheepherders have left arborglyphs—sheepherders’ version of petroglyphs--on aspen trees. Meet at Ketchum’s Forest Service Park and 1st and Washington streets.

To check out classes or purchase a ticket for Ehrlich or the Peruvian dance performance, visit https://trailingofthesheep.org

 


 

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