On January 21st, 2022, in sunny San Diego, California, John and Diane Peavey were presented the American Sheep Industry Association’s (ASI) Industry Innovation Award. The Industry Innovation Award is an annual award recognizing the accomplishments of an individual or organization that improves the American sheep industry in a game-changing way. The Peavey’s were honored with this award for founding the annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival. Since its founding, they have been actively involved in the planning and integral to its growth and success 25 years later.
Born Out of a Need
Over 25 years ago, in Sun Valley, Idaho, the local recreation district wanted to put in a bike path to connect the towns of the Wood River Valley. They approached the local ranchers, including John and Diane Peavey and John Faulkner and family, to get their permission to put the bike path where they annually trailed their sheep. The ranchers all agreed with the understanding that the sheep would still be utilizing this pathway twice a year for trailing. Yet after the bike path was implemented and began use as public recreation, users started making complaints about the sheep droppings on “their” bike path.
John and Diane saw this as an opportunity. They invited people to the local coffee shop to teach them about the history of the sheep industry in the Wood River Valley and the critical role they play. Later, they invited them to trail with the sheep to experience the industry first-hand. The following year, they replicated the program. It continued to grow until John, Diane, and other community members determined, “We have a Festival here.” From there, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival was born, bringing sheep ranchers, community members, and the general public together to learn about the history, culture, and importance of sheep.
Now, 25 years later, the Festival continues to grow and bring in participants from all corners of the United States and even worldwide. In 2021, the 25th Anniversary, the Festival had 25,000 participants and infused 6.2 million dollars into the local economy. Participants take part in lamb taste testing, enjoy a Folklife Fair, view a working dog trial, and take in all things sheep and ranching during the 5-day event. While the Festival has grown and evolved, the main goal is still to educate and celebrate the history, culture, and legacy of sheep herding and ranching in Idaho and the Western United States.
“John and Diane Peavey founded the Trailing of the Sheep Festival 25 years ago to save the stories of land and place in Idaho and the West, to bring people together to educate them about sheep ranching, and to celebrate the industry,” said Laura Musbach Drake, Executive Director, Trailing of the Sheep Festival, “All these years later, what began as a few people gathering together, is now a festival that welcomes thousands of people from all over the country and all over the world. Their innovation and creativity to co-found this Festival- noted by USA TODAY as one the ‘Ten Best Fall Festivals in the US’ – is a wonderful accomplishment and quite deserving of the ASI Industry Innovation Award.”
Honoring the Legacy
A long-time dream of John’s was to erect a monument in the Wood River Valley, commemorating the history and legacy the sheep industry has had on it. In October 2021 in Hailey, at the 25th Festival, this dream became reality with the unveiling of the Good Shepherd Monument. The monument brought together both festival-goers and sheep families from across the state. It will continue to stand as a reminder of the role the sheep and wool industry had on the Wood River Valley, the role the industry continues to have to this day, and will continue the work the Peavey’s started when they founded the Trailing of the Sheep Festival 25 years ago.
John Peavey is a third-generation sheep rancher, former state Senator and co-founder of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival. John ran Flat Top Sheep Company for nearly 60 years, before passing it on to his son Tom, the current operator, who has since brought his son Cory into the family business. Diane Josephy Peavey, John’s wife, is a co-founder of the Festival, a current member of the Advisory Council, and an author who provides an insider’s view of the joys, struggles, and adventures of life in rural Idaho.
John and Diane are long-time Idaho Wool Grower’s Association members and advocates for the sheep industry. The IWGA is honored to have such innovative, passionate, and determined members. We are proud, as well as grateful, for the work John and Diane have put in on behalf of our industry. Congratulations to John and Diane Peavey on receiving the ASI Industry Innovation Award!