Charlotte and Twix are two Border Collies returning to this year's Saline Celtic Festival for demonstrations of herding Scottish Black Face Yearling sheep. This year's festival is set for July 12 and 13 at Mill Pond Park. Sheep herding demonstrations are scheduled for 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m., on Saturday, July 13.
“Irene, who was just a spectating puppy last year, will be added to the herding schedule,” says James Valley, who has been training and using Border Collies to herd animals for over 20 years. “Dot—who previously came to the Saline Celtic Festival—is retired at 14 years old. She enjoys the occasional chance to move sheep around.”
Valley and his wife Becky and their sheep herding demonstrations are a major highlight of many festivals in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan, and have charmed Saline Celtic festivalgoers for several years.
“Being a homegrown Salinian, I’m proud to say to all our followers and new audiences that the Saline Celtic Festival is the best festival we attend,” the Saline High School alumnus says. “It’s top notch, well organized and not to be missed.”
The Valleys, who own Green Acres Farm in Ann Arbor, developed their herd over the years from four head of Corydales to a flock of 50 breeding ewes of Kahtahden and Scottish Blackface, with 60 to 80 spring lambs being born each year.
Their Border Collies help in managing the flock and urban grazing work, compete in herding competitions and provide demonstrations showing the importance, usefulness and natural talents of these intelligent canines, a breed that is among the smartest dogs in the world, according to the American Kennel Club.
The command of “come by,” sends a dog counterclockwise around the herd, “away” sends the dog clockwise, and “walk on” encourages the dog to walk toward the animals.
Valley also competes at sheepdog herding trials throughout the United States and Canada as well as the national finals. He starts training his dogs, from a Michigan breeder, when they are about a year old, and it takes a couple of years to train them to herd well.
Festivalgoers will also enjoy a music line-up of The Kreellers, Crossbow, Thunderwüde, Brother Crowe, Black Murray, House of Hamill, Codgers, Paddy’s Cure, The Barley Saints, Nessa, Saline Fiddlers, and Chelsea House Orchestra; along with pipe bands, ancient athletics, jousting, historical re-enactments, dance troupes, Highland dance competition, music and dance workshops, textiles and weavers, Wee Folks Island, Millie the Mill Pond Monster, and much more.
The festival gets underway at 5 p.m., on Friday, July 12, with an evening of music and fun; followed by the all-day festival on Saturday, July 13. For complete information, including the lineup of events and activities and ticket prices, visit www.salineceltic.org.