Mule Days update: Organizers continue to monitor, move forward

By: 
Register Staff
Staff Writer

The Bishop Mule Days Board of Directors stated in a release Thursday that it continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation but because of its significance to the local economy, the survival of the Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fairgrounds and the continued celebration of an American tradition it plans on moving forward with the Memorial Day weekend scheduled for May 19-24.

The board noted that the Bishop Mule Days Celebration rose from humble beginnings in 1970 to bring a world-class mule show to the Eastern Sierra. The event has become the premier mule show in North America and brings visitors from all walks of life: RV enthusiasts, campers, equine enthusiasts, contestants, celebrities, fans and friends.Mule Days has endured through recessions, high fuel prices, devastating equine diseases and the loss of many dedicated, dear friends and volunteers.

"Our all-volunteer board has continued to promote the legacy of our founders: 'Anything a horse can do, a mule can do better,'" the board stated "And, we have continued to promote and enhance the local community and tourism-dependent economy."

Event directors stated that Mule Days has become a vital part of the local economy by packing mules as well hotels and campgrounds during a time that had previously been slow. Mule Days brings foot-traffic and visitors, which raises revenue in for local businesses and government. Mule Days is estimated to bring multi-millions of dollars in direct spending to the Bishop area. For a tourist-driven economy, this equates to $7 million in economic value for every $1 million spent.

"Our humble show is honored and proud to be such a vital part of our local economy," the board stated.

According to the Mule Days board, while Mule Days has succeeded, the Tri-County Fairgrounds has been struggling. The state has cut much of the funding for county fairs, leaving them struggling to remain open. Unfortunately, this has resulted in many fairs closing. Mule Days has long been a partner of the Tri-County Fairgrounds, providing much-needed capital improvements, sponsorships and assisting with repairs.Mule Days is the single largest financial contributor to the fairgrounds. Mule Days provides labor and facilities for hosting the California High School Rodeo Association state finals and the Tri-County Fair. Despite this partnership and the fair hosting events generating much needed income and city and county Transient Occupation Tax (hotel tax) funds, the fairgrounds is struggling.

"The reality is, Mule Days cannot exist without the Tri-County Fairgrounds and the Tri-County Fairgrounds cannot exist without Mule Days," the board stated. "The economic and social benefit of Mule Days and the Tri-County Fairgrounds cannot be replaced and should not be ignored."

Mule Days is primarily a volunteer-run event but the organization does have a few employees who rely on the success of the event for their income and benefits. Mule Days is a private, not-for-profit entity and may not be eligible for the stimulus programs related to this pandemic.

"While we recognize the economic and social benefits of our event, we are cognizant of the impact such an event can have on the health and welfare of the citizens of our small community," the board stated. "Mule Days has been contacted by many contestants, participants and fans. We have heard your concerns and agree the well-being of our community is paramount. To that end, Mule Days is giving the local, state and federal government time to address this pandemic. We will continue to do our part to produce a quality event while it is our hope, solutions will be forthcoming and we can ultimately move forward."

In the meantime, Mule Days continues to monitor the situation.

"We realize the decision to continue with our 51st event may be taken out of our hands," directors stated. "If such a decision is made, we will do our mule-minded best to save Mule Days and the fairgrounds for the future. We want to assure our competitors, fans, campers, RVers, ticket holders and volunteers we have a policy in place to ensure refunds will be made fairly and appropriately. We have also developed a procedure whereby reservations and payments are fully credited to our event in 2021 – our 'pay-it-forward' option. Mule Days wishes to thank our community, fans, competitors, volunteers and attendees for your patience and understanding while we work through this unprecedented time of uncertainty. Your dedication to our beautiful American mule is our strength."

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