A Slice of Idaho-Trailing of the Sheep Festival

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

When I got the invitation to see the 150 year old Idaho festival, Trailing of the Sheep, it was a no brainer. Off I went to explore a small portion of a dramatic state which I had never experienced.  The world-renowned festival celebrates Idaho’s sheep ranching families; highlighting its principal shepherders in a  celebration of history, heritage, culture, lamb and wool. The festival is not a reenactment, but literally the shepherding of close to 1500 sheep from summer grazing pastures in the higher elevations of Ketchum and Sun Valley, ID down to winter pastures without snow.

Cultural Experience 

The celebration highlights multicultural experiences of Scottish, Basque, Polish and Peruvian dancers and musicians, demonstrations, cooking, fiber and photography workshops, with the Trailing of the Sheep Parade through the main street of Ketchum.


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, dance and music. Scottish and Peruvian sheepherders also showed their cultural costumes while marching through the parade.


Sheep fill the street in downtown Ketchum.
photo by Michael Edminster



To 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. 

Various designs of sheep wagons were part of the procession.


After the parade, a park along Ketchum’s Main St is set as the official lamb barbecue station. Hot grilled lamb Mediterranean sausages, lamb tacos, lamb burgers or lamb chili were irresistible offerings for the anxiously awaiting crowd.