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Ever since I caught wind of its existence, I had been fixated on attending the Trailing of the Sheep Festival. This wild and woolly annual event takes place every October in Sun Valley-adjacent Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho and celebrates a more than 150-year tradition of moving sheep from summer pastures in the mountains to winter grazing areas. But it’s also a cultural event, filled with craft and cooking demonstrations, multi-cultural entertainment and sheep poetry. The latter roped me in—after all, who could resist a sheep bleating Keats and spinning yarns?

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Sheep Parade

Sheep Parade | Photo courtesy of Laura Powell

As my obsession grew, I knit together a fantasy about becoming Queen of the Sheep Parade, which takes place the last day of the festival. Nearly 2,000 sheep forma wall of wool as they saunter down Main Street Ketchum on their march toward their winter home. They are joined along the way by musicians and dancers of every stripe. My dream was to show off my good breeding by donning a tiara and walking amongst my little lambs as adoring flocks cheered from the sidelines.

And so, my little lamb chops, with this in mind, off I flew to the Gem State. How to become Queen of the Sheep…I ruminated over this ruminant dilemma and decided the best way to win the title was to start lobbying town elders and festival organizers. But upon arriving and grazing the landscape, I realized shepherding them might be tricky.

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There were many places around town and at the festival to look. Icould hoof it to lamb cooking demonstrations or check out Sheep Tales & Readings from the Land at the local library. I herd it through the ovine that the big kahunas might flock to the Championship Sheep Dog Trials held over several days or perhaps they might be buying knit hats and muttons or learning to shear wool at the Sheep Folklife Fair.

Finally, I settled on tracking them down at the Sheepherders Ball on Saturday night. After all, a ball seemed fitting for a potential queen. I snagged a ticket. Shofar, so good. Then, as I hunted for my Prince Charming, I heard that, as the end of the parade route comes into sight, the sheep sometimes start stampeding to quicken the journey to their winter digs.

sheep in ketchum idaho

Photo courtesy of Trailing of the Sheep

Suddenly, I envisioned myself in my own private Pamplona (this being the home of Hemingway, after all), overtaken by a mad mob of sheep goring me with their puffballs of wool. The dodge of ram would leave me with tiara askew and my garb transformed into the world’s largest livery of lint.

Alas, at midnight, my sheep dreams (and nightmares) were punctured after being told the shear truth—the Sunday Sheep Parade had no queen. Shorn of my dream, this piece of news really got my goat. Baa humbug, said I.

That said, I may just resume my quest this year.

The 20th Annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival happens October 5-9.

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Laura Powell

Laura Powell

Laura is a 20-year veteran travel journalist. She was CNN's first travel reporter, and has written for publications ranging from Alaska Airlines Magazine to The Washington Post. Find her at the www.dailysuitcase.com or on Twitter: @dailysuitcase

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