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Big Sheep Parade Attracts a Crowd
The Boise Highlanders made it to the festival, but the Basque Oinkari Dancers cancelled because of the pandemic.
Monday, October 11, 2021


You would never have known there was a pandemic going on to see the crowd that turned out for the 25th anniversary of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival parade.

Sunday’s paradegoers were up to 10 people deep along parts of the parade route. Pins stuck in maps indicated festival goers had come from every state but North Dakota, Mississippi and Arkansas. And, despite the difficulties of traveling during a pandemic, spectators had made their way from every country in Europe, South Africa, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia and the Ukraine.

“This is the salt of the earth atmosphere,” said Heather Filgate, who’d brought her 8-year-old daughter Mercer from Savannah, Ga. “It’s nice to remember our past because it’s changed so much.”

The Rev. Jonah Kendall seemed to relish blessing the sheep, alongside Rabbi Robbi Sherwin.

Some 1,500 sheep provided by rancher John Faulkner were late arriving to their photo op in the hills north of the Big Wood Golf Course Sunday morning. But the 50-plus shutterbugs who turned out for the Sheep Photography Outing contented themselves with snapping pictures of the yellow and orange aspen in the valley below.

About 90 minutes after they were due, the sheep came, spilling down to the highway. It was a little too early for Jim Keller’s liking.

He’s volunteered to keep the sheep on the highway and off the cemetery grounds and parking lots along the way for yeears. And he can recount several times watching sheep run up Knob Hill.

“It can be a real rodeo some years, and these sheep are raring to go,” he said.

Sara and Arbor Meyers spent Sunday morning selling raffle tickets for the Trailing of the Sheep Festival’s commemorative 25th anniversary quilt.

This time Keller’s fears did not materialize. The sheep were docile—boring by some spectators’ standards. There was no leaping in the air, no taking handlers on a mad chase through alleyways. There was scarcely even a bleat.

The only mischief came after the three sheep broke away as the sheep exited Ketchum. But they were quickly corralled as they headed down the bike path through a backdrop of yellow aspen.

While Keller herded sheep, Don Liebich herded spectators.

“This is one of the best events in our valley,” he said. “It appeals to everybody, from the teens to the adults “

The Peruvian musicians brought out the saxes this year, along with more traditional instruments.

“I loved bringing my grandchildren to it when they were young,” said Marcia Liebich. “And I love the stories. It’s hard to imagine that Ketchum once shipped out so many sheep on the railroad that we were second only to Australia.”

The Rev. Jonah Kendall, pastor of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, was reportedly a little nervous about blessing the sheep as they came straight at him.

But he seemed to relish the task as he stood in the middle of the street watching the sheep part around him, thanking God for giving the sheep to us to nurture and asking that they find meaning and peace and God’s grace.

“The sheep deserve a blessing as much as we,” said Sherwin, who blessed them in the name of Shaddai—the name that has no end--before asking that God bless them and keep them and grant them peace. “They give so much to this valley—clothing, food, livelihood.”

More than 50 people turned out for the Sheep Photography Outing, many of them waiting on a ridge line above Big Wood Golf Course.

Wendy Jaquet, who has volunteered with the festival since its beginning said her favorite part is Friday night’s Lamb Dine Around when restaurants like Rominna’s and Rasberrys trot out such dishes as lamb shanks in plum sauce and Turkish Gozleme.

“You see so many people and they’re all so excited,” she said. “I also love it when the sheep come down the street—you have the anticipation of the crowd, and then the silence when they come.”



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