Festivals Worth the Trip 

When you need a reason to escape

Need an excuse for a weekend getaway? The Wood River Valley plays host to a rich series of festivals throughout the summer and fall, offering the perfect reasons to head to the mountains.

Fourth of July

Friday, July 2-Sunday, July 4The holiday weekend is filled with events from one end of the valley to the other. Both Hailey and Ketchum host antique shows throughout the weekend, but the real draw is the Hailey Days of the Old West celebration. The annual event is as much a celebration of Western small-town culture as the Independence Day holiday. It includes three nights of rodeo, which draws cowboys from across the region. The small town, old-fashioned celebration continues on Sunday, July 4, with a parade down Main Street, followed by a children's carnival and criterion bike race. The day finishes with the ever-important public fireworks display beginning at dusk. For more information, visit haileyidaho.com or call 208-788-3484.

Northern Rockies Folk Festival

Friday, Aug. 6-Saturday, Aug. 7For the last 33 years, Hailey has been a summer destination for folk music fans as the Northern Rockies Folk Festival draws an array of musical headliners. This year's line-up includes Quailfish, Michael White, Olin and the Moon, Lisa Haley and the Zydekats, Joe Paisley, Gypsy River Haunts, No Cheap Horses, Joshua Tree featuring Johnny Shoes, and Leslie and the Badgers. Music lovers can plop themselves on a blanket in Hop Porter Park along the Big Wood River all weekend for just $25. For more information, visit nrff.net.

Wagon Days

Saturday, Sept. 4-Monday, Sept. 6Labor Day weekend in Ketchum means the return of the granddaddy of all area festivals, the 53rd annual Wagon Days. The three-day event is a celebration of the area's mining past, but includes more than early miners could ever have imagined. Visitors can check out gallery walks, a classic car auction, an Old Western shoot out, antique fairs and star-studded ice shows. But the highlight is the Big Hitch parade, featuring museum-quality buggies and wagons. Anchoring the parade is the Big Hitch—six 15-foot-tall Lewis Ore Wagons pulled by a 20-mule jerkline. Crowds line up to see the team make the 90-degree turn at Main Street and Sun Valley Road, a maneuver that requires the muleskinner to move half the mules to one side of the hitch. Of course, watching 24,000 pounds of antique wagons heading back down Saddle Butte is exciting in its own right. For more information, visit wagondays.com.

Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival

Friday, Sept. 17-Sunday, Sept. 19Each fall, the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival brings the some of the best films and documentaries highlighting spiritual traditions from around the world to theaters in Ketchum and Hailey. Filmmakers and speakers descend to talk film. Tickets to individual films cost $8, while an all-festival pass costs $80. The 2010 schedule is yet to be determined, but check svspiritualfilmfestival.org for updated details.

Sun Valley Harvest Festival

Friday, Sept. 24-Sunday, Sept. 26The festival has undergone a name change as well as a move to the fall. What was once the Sun Valley Food and Wine Festival is now all about the fall harvest. The event focuses on regional foods and includes cooking demos, beer and wine tastings, a restaurant walk, chefs' dinners and even something called a culinary trade show, which has to be experienced to be understood. Check sunvalleyharvestfestival.com for a full schedule of events.

Trailing of the Sheep

Friday, Oct. 8-Sunday, Oct. 10Sheep once ruled the Wood River Valley, and for a brief period each fall, they do again. The three-day festival is all about living history. The 14th annual event includes music, poetry, wool spinning demonstrations, sheep dog demonstrations and some lessons on cooking with lamb (don't tell the sheep). The festival celebrates the life of the shepherd as well, with cultural exhibits from the Basque, Peruvian and even some Scottish representatives. The event's highlight is on Sunday, when the parade fills the street with not only humans, but masses of sheep making their way from summer to winter pastures. For more information, check out trailingofthesheep.org.

Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree

Wednesday, Oct. 13-Sunday, Oct. 17The festival season in Sun Valley comes to a conclusion with an all-out celebration of all things jazz. During five days, more than 40 groups performing every incarnation of jazz are spread out over the town, playing more the 300 shows in all. No matter the time of day, jazz can be heard echoing through the town, drawing crowds from across the country. The earlier you buy your passes for this one, the cheaper they are, but the price tops out at $120 for a five-day pass. For more info, check out sunvalleyjazz.com.

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