KETCHUM, Idaho (KLIX) – Twenty years ago a parade kicked off in the Wood River Valley that celebrated the history and culture of sheepherding in the area. It grew into an annual event beloved by many – including a young woman from South Dakota who has made it her dream to attend.

Through the Trailing of the Sheep Festival and Make-a-Wish Idaho, Shelby Huff, who suffers from bone marrow failure called aplastic anemia, will attend this year’s festival scheduled for Oct. 5-9 in Ketchum.

It will be Huff’s first visit to Idaho. She’ll arrive with her mother, grandparents and sister, and says she is most excited to learn about sheepherding. It’ll be even more memorable for Huff because besides sharing a love of sheep she has something else in common with the festival: both are 20 years old.

The parade started in 1996 and expanded from there, said the festival’s executive director, Laura Drake. It evolved after a bicycle path was installed on a national sheep driveway, and trailer users became discouraged because they’d encounter sheep dung on their path.

Community discussions led to forming a parade in an effort to celebrate and educate people about the culture and history of sheepherding in the area, Drake said. It hasn’t changed its focus over the years, but it has expanded to become the festival it is today.

There’ll be something for everyone of all ages.

Drake said she’s excited about this year’s festival for many reasons. One of the biggest celebrations will occur on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 8, when a reception and sheepherders’ ball will be held at the nexStage Theatre.

Other events during the five-day festival include readings by authors and poets who’ll share reflections on the sheepherding industry, championship sheepdog trials, chef-taught cooking classes, folk and traditional art including singing and dancing, and, of course, the parade that starts at noon on Sunday, Oct. 9, and travels seven blocks in downtown Ketchum. About 1,500 sheep will be part of the parade route.

Drake said the festival has all the makings of a memorable 20-year celebration. “There’ll be something for everyone of all ages,” she said, noting it’s especially important to her that the festival could partner with Make-a-Wish Idaho. She’s excited for Huff’s visit.

Huff will officially be welcomed by festival officials from 1:15 to 2 p.m. Oct. 6 on the nexStage Theatre. Visit Trailing of the Sheep for tickets for the ball and to view a complete schedule and map of the festivities.