Friday, May 31, 2013

Bishop Mule Days

Bishop Mule Days was founded 44 years ago by Bob Tanner, a local rancher and co-owner of the infamous 20-mule team.  Every year during the Memorial Day Weekend, more than 700 mules compete in 181 events at the Bishop Mule Days Celebration. There is no way to actually describe Mule Days. It is part mule show, part test of skills, and part Wild West show. Situated on the Tri-County Fairgrounds in Bishop, California, Mule Days has become an international world class event. Crowds have grown from 200 to more than 30,000 fans!  When I was asked to attend as the Grand Marshal representing all military families I was extremely touched and excited.  I grew up around horses and didn't realize how similar yet different mules can be.

I arrived in Bishop Friday morning and hit the ground running.  As I arrived at the Fairgrounds I was introduced to Chuck, a delightful gentleman with the California High School Rodeo Association.  He introduced me to the Queens from the California High School Rodeo Association and we were treated to a tour of the Mule Days fairgrounds and invited to attend Mule Days Founder Bob Tanner’s dinner party on his ranch with one stipulation… no heels.  As we walked around the fairgrounds meeting many of the competitors and mules I was surprised at how beautiful and majestic mules look.  They are great and sweet animals and very smart, there were many escaped mules over the weekend.  I was also fascinated by the many different types of mules, which are horses bred with donkey’s. 

Getting ready for Mr. Tanners barbecue was a little more challenging as I don’t have cowboy boots but thanks to the Boot Campaign I am the proud owner of a pair of military issued combat boots which I proudly wore to the party with my blue jeans and pink shirt to represent breast cancer awareness, the Mule Day’s theme for Friday.  The dinner hosted many local dignitaries and residents of the local convalescent hospital, including 4 WWII Veterans!  As I walked around speaking to each of them I learned so much.  Some of these men may not be able to remember a year ago but each of them remembered the events of the war and their battles in such vivid manner.  Ralph was part of a unit on the beaches of Normandy while Dennis was a Boatswains Mate with the 4th Marine unit landing at Iwo Jima.  I enjoyed my conversations with both of these men to such a large degree – learning about their families and lives.  Thank you isn’t enough

Saturday morning brought the VIP breakfast where I was able to meet another military family in attendance that I would be riding along with in the parade.  James and Jessica are both Army Veterans and along with their 2 sons are very army strong!  It was wonderful getting to know them and their boys, very respectful young men.  It just so happened that 2 Marines were in the parade just behind us so along the route there was some good natured ribbing between the branches but I do believe HOOAH won.  The parade route was wonderful; Bishop is an extremely military proud and friendly community where I couldn't have felt more welcomed. 
After the parade I was able to fulfill one of my Mule Days requirements… riding a mule!  Miss Oregon Rodeo America lent me a pair of cowboy boots and a mule to ride.  I had a blast sitting atop of Biscuit and touring the fairgrounds.  Such a LARGE yet sweet animal that made me miss riding for sure.  At the end of Saturday I enjoyed watching the Grand Entry, evening competitions and spending some time with a childhood friend and her family. 

On my way out of town I stopped at Cobweb Antiques, a wonderful and quaint antique store with the sweetest owners.  I love antiques and was overjoyed to speak to them about their store (an old jail!) and the memories of many of the items being sold.  There is so much you can learn about an area by their antique stores.  Cobwebs store owner James gave me two beautiful pairs of antique earrings as good luck for Mrs International. 

I can’t say thank you enough to the wonderful town of Bishop and all of their residents, your generosity and hospitality were second to none.  I will be back next year without a doubt.  

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