Sheep Festival & Moroccan Lamb Stew


Named one of America’s Wackiest Fall Festivals, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival in Ketchum, Idahoisn’t wacky at all. Or maybe it is. It really depends on what your definition of “wacky” is.

Trailing of the Sheep is a four-day celebration of Idaho’s sheep heritage, with yarn spinning and dyeing demonstrations, cooking demonstrations, a restaurant lamb-dish crawl (tip of the hat to Enoteca’s lamb prosciutto-wrapped apple slaw), a sheep dog herding contest, documentary screenings and a Sheepherders’ Ball. That doesn’t sound wacky.

OK, there is one wacky event. The closing parade on the last day is a little offbeat.

Sheep, approximately 1,500 of them, are herded through Main Street by sheepherders and Border Collies. It’s a site to see.

And here they come…


1,500 sheep enter the town of Ketchum, ID

2013 marks the 17th year of Trailing of the Sheep. The festival organizer says the festival was originally created as a peace offering.

Old ranching families in the Wood River Valley were eventually outnumbered by those who came to — and stayed in — Sun Valley and Ketchum to ski and hike and bike.


There’s always a black sheep … or two … in the family.

Apparently the new folks didn’t like the sheep droppings on their brand new bike paths. (Never mind those new bike paths were plopped right on top of old sheep trails.)


Working the sheep. Photo by D. Tedesco

So the ranchers said, “Why don’t we create a fun, food-filled festival and finish it off with a spectacle — marching 1,500 sheep down Main Street instead of unceremoniously moving them down to winter pasture on those new bike paths?”


Bye-bye baa baas.

A festival was born.

Drawing visitors from all over the country, the festival brings in a substantial amount of tourist money to the town’s coffers. Visitors get a first-hand education on the sheep herding heritage of Idaho. It’s a win-win.


Mark your calendars for next year’s 18th Annual Trailing of the Sheep, October 9 through October 12. There might be a dusting of snow on the mountains, the leaves will certainly be showing off their vibrant hues of orange, red and yellow, and 1,500 sheep will be waiting to entertain you.


photo © American Lamb

In the meantime, here is a recipe for a Moroccan lamb stew for the slow cooker. You can simmer this stew in a pot on top of the stove, just keep an eye on the liquid level, adding more chicken broth as necessary.

The recipe is from the American Lamb board. Check out their website for more information and additional lamb recipes.


Slow Cooker Moroccan Lamb Stew
Author: Adapted from American Lamb
Serves: 6
The American Lamb board says “Aromatic spices pair perfectly with lamb shoulder in this ever-so-simple stew recipe. It’s perfect for supper clubs when you don’t have time to spend all day prepping.” Top with cooked whole wheat couscous and a dollop of Greek yogurt, maybe a sprinkling of minced chives. Pair this with a spicy red Zinfandel wine, or a pale ale brew.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds American lamb shoulder chops, bones removed, visible fat trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, do not drain
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 6 ounces Swiss chard, spinach or kale, roughly chopped
  1. Over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick skillet. Season lamb with salt and pepper and cook, in batches, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes.
  2. Transfer browned lamb to slow cooker insert.
  3. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to pan (if necessary), then add onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne. Cook until onions are soft, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add broth and tomatoes to onion/spice mixture and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and carefully transfer mixture to slow cooker. Add chickpeas and raisins to slow cooker and stir.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
  6. Remove lid and stir in chopped greens until wilted, about 1 or 2 minutes.
  7. Serve with whole-wheat couscous and a dollop of Greek yogurt.


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