best of annual events
The Big Hitch historic ore wagons are the main attraction of the annual Wagon Days parade.
Photo by Willy Cook
the valley's top annual event
Celebration features wagons, racing ducks and ice shows.
There are lots of great annual events in the Wood River Valley, but folks seem to like Wagon Days the most.
It's a three-day Labor Day weekend. What better way to celebrate than to dress up in your Western finery, watch the largest non-motorized parade in the West, learn about local history, go to a rodeo, enjoy a pancake feed, catch a world-class ice show or watch thousands of plastic ducks race down the Big Wood River.
The annual Wagon Days celebration started in 1958. Now, 55 years later—with some early years off—it seems to get bigger and better each year.
The Big Hitch Parade is a highlight of the celebration, displaying dozens of museum-quality buggies, carriages, carts, buckboards and wagons. But the parade's main attraction continues to be the Big Hitch wagons that were used to haul ore from rural mines to processing centers, powered by a team of 20 draft mules. Adding spice to the parade is a lively assortment of authentically costumed characters and numerous breeds of horses, from Arabians to Morgans to Pasos.
A longtime Wagon Days favorite has been the shootouts staged by the Blackjack Ketchum Shootout Gang. The shootout script has varied from year to year, but the typical scenario involved Blackjack Ketchum and his gang of outlaws riding into town after robbing a bank in Bellevue. However, in 2013, Wagon Days organizers opted to replace the shootout with a square dance in the city's downtown.
Rodeo action takes place in Hailey. Sun Valley Resort hosts ice shows. There are bike races, concerts, golf tournaments, museum shows, art gallery walks, a children's carnival, ice cream socials, a collectible-car auction, wine tastings, art shows, outdoor antique and flea markets, mine tours and more.
Not to be forgotten is the annual duck race, the main money raiser for Blaine County Search and Rescue. People adopt plastic ducks for a chance of winning prizes. The ducks get dumped in the Big Wood River and the first ones to the finish qualify the lucky duck adopters for prizes.
Wagon Days becomes a truly valley-wide event, not only for locals but for thousands of visitors to the Sun Valley area. No wonder it was chosen "Best of the Valley."