About a week after returning from the Parkfield Blue Grass Festival, we took off on a weeklong camping trip to Bishop, California, for the 50th annual Mule Days Festival that took place over the Memorial Day weekend. This was another Greater Los Angeles Airstream Club gathering and it was a lot of fun! The festival featured mule and donkey events of all kinds and the scenery was gorgeous.
From our campground we could see the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains and to the west, the White Mountains. There was a lot of snow on those mountains. In the late afternoon and evening the wind blew down from the mountains into the valley and it got pretty chilly. A little creek ran behind the campground from which folks were catching trout. Next door was a pasture full of cows.
There were too many competitions/demonstrations to list, but here’s a few: mule dressage-like competitions; mule chariot racing; mule and donkey barrel racing; mule calf roping; various mule team wagon pulling competitions; mule pack team competitions; mule and donkey races; donkey training and many more. And of course there were all kinds of vendors offering country related things some of us just had to have. My wife bought some jeans (with sparkly designs on the back pockets) and a nice leather belt. My daughter bought some music cd’s and a cowboy hat. I wanted a horsehair belt, but I’m too cheap to fork up $300 for a belt.
Besides mule/donkey skill demonstrations, there were a lot of mule themed Memorial Day shows and a parade down Main Street. The Mule Days parade is the world’s longest non-motorized parade (it’s in the Guinness World Records book). The parade was quite impressive and featured local school marching bands, mules and donkeys of all kinds, Percheron horses (they are real big), Sheriff, United States Marshal and Highway Patrol mounted units, mule back country pack teams and mule wagon teams that included a Death Valley 20 Mule Team. Death Valley 20 mule teams could pull 36 1/2 TONS of stuff in HUGE wagons across Death Valley in 120+ degree weather! The wagons are massive!
We attended a couple of dinners at the Fair Grounds that featured live entertainment. If you like meat and country music, you would have liked these dinners. We certainly did not go away hungry and the musical performances were very good.
On Memorial Day, we attended a service at a local cemetery that honored fallen and living veterans. It was brief but very moving and patriotic. We also took a side trip to nearby Convict Lake. The scenery there was breathtaking. We even saw a couple of bald eagles flying around and hiked through areas of snow that trailed down from the mountains to the lake.
We are already planning to go back next year and we will be booking a campsite soon. If you are near Bishop around Memorial Day, it’s worth your time to attend Mule Days, you’ll have lots of fun!