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Festival’s cancellation leads to likely loss of millions in tourism spending

The annual Sun Valley event the Trailing of the Sheep Festival brings in thousands of tourists. Now, with the event canceled by its board of directors, Sun Valley is expected to lose millions in tourism money.

The Trailing of the Sheep is a nonprofit. 50% of its yearly revenue comes from the festival.

Slated to take place on October 7-11, planning and preparation were well underway. The board had booked venues and planned events. The nonprofit was in contact with most of the groups that normally come to perform. For caution and awareness of the pandemic, ticket sales had not begun.

“We’re also not spending all the outlay of cash we would produce from the event,” the Executive Director of the Trailing of the Sheep, Laura Musbach Drake said. “However, we still have to keep the lights on, so we’re still operating year-round. We are going to have to probably dip into a little bit of the reserves we had. Because we aren’t going to have any festival generated income.”

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Drake says they began reaching out to donors to ask about sponsoring dogs and sheep as they normally do for the parade.

“We’ve also started selling merchandise on our website, which we’ve never done before,” she said. “We have realized a little bit of income from that and we realize even more as we promote what we would have sold at the festival as new merchandise …We hope that generates a little bit of income for us, but we still have to operate for the balance of the year.”

Wood River Valley Economic Impact 

The board acknowledged the considerable economic impact the cancelation will have on the community. $4.5 million is the estimated amount of revenue. This includes tourists spending money on different attractions and essentials such as and gas. The nonprofit estimates 25,000 people attend annually.

Drake does not see how the multi-millions lost from the festival could be made up. Especially with larger-scale events that bring in tourists, being postponed or canceled.

Looking ahead

Even with the 2020 event being canceled and the nonprofit losing 50% of their annual income, they are staying optimistic. Drake is looking at this cancelation as extra time to prepare for the Trailing of the Sheep’s 25th anniversary next year.

“We will survive,” she said. “We are going to have to make some decisions and maybe be even more frugal than we already are, but we will survive. The next time we can host a festival, which we hope is next year, we are going to be there to do it.”

Autum Robertson - BoiseDev reporter
Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Meridian and McCall. Contact her at [email protected].

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