Mule Days

Mule Days

May, Memorial Day weekend
A raucous salute in Bishop, Calif., to that workhorse of the ages, the mule. Bishop is an outfitting point for pack trips and lies between California's two highest mountain ranges. The entire region depends on mules to transport people and gear into the High Sierra.
Mule Days was started in 1969 by mule-packers who wanted to have a good time and initiate their summer packing season. Now about 50,000 people show up in Bishop (population 3,500) for the Thursday-through-Monday celebration.
A highlight is the Saturday morning 250-unit parade, billed as the world's largest non-motorized parade. It includes pack strings from local pack stations and national parks, a sheep-drawn wagon, llamas (used for sheepherding), and a rider on a Brahma steer. The pack loads demonstrate how mules haul such various necessities as machinery, wood, and outhouses into remote areas. Other events include mule-shoeing contests and such muleback cowboy events as steer roping and barrel racing. The weekend's wildest events are "packers' scrambles," where about 50 packers scramble to catch mules, pack and saddle them, and race away with horses and cattle. About 40 horses, two dozen cattle, and 80 mules raise the dust in the arena during the scrambles.
Draft horses and miniature horses also put in appearances, and there are mule shows and sales, western art, barbecues, and country dances. Motels are booked solid a year in advance. Ronald Reagan attended Mule Days in 1974 when he was California's governor.
Mules are the sterile progeny of male asses or donkeys and mares (female horses). The rarer offspring of male horses and female donkeys are called hinneys. Mules have been beasts of burden for at least 3,000 years.
CONTACTS:
Bishop Mule Days Celebration
1141 N. Main St.
Bishop, CA 93514
760-872-4263; fax: 760-872-2328
www.muledays.org
SOURCES:
GdUSFest-1984, p. 15
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Vaughn Twitchell, another mule owner, has won so many awards and prizes in national mule shows with his mule, Miss Kitty, that they are both members of the Bishop Mule Days Hall of Fame.
The next year, Twitchell became the 12th man named to the Bishop Mule Days Hall of Fame.
"It's a passion of his," says Lyn Neel, who departs once again today with her husband to Mule Days in Bishop, Calif., on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas.
For the past five years, the Neels and friends have ventured to Bishop, hauling their mules and wagons in two large custom-built trailers, to compete in Mule Days, considered the world's premiere mule-driving show.