© 2023 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Mules Take Center Stage At Calvary, Ga., Festival

About 90,000 people made their way to the 40th annual Mule Day Festival in Calvary, Ga., over the weekend.  The festival started off as a military reunion of Calvary’s World War II veterans.

The mule is nature’s cross between a female horse and a male donkey. But how did the mule get a massive festival named after it in a little town in southern Georgia?

It all started as a homecoming of sorts.  Veterans returning to Calvary from World War II used the G.I. Bill to get their degrees but then moved away. Janette Sickel, a member of the Calvary Lions Club and director of the Mule Day Museum, explained what happened next.

“But the home ties were very strong, and so these people who had gone away in the '50s wanted to come back, wanted to have their home ties recognized, and so that’s how the Mule Day started in 1973," Sickel said.

Sickel said they chose the mule out of respect, because until World War II, agriculture in the community rode the back of the mule, doing the manual labor that was too hard for men. After the industrial revolution the use of mules decreased as a result of mechanization. 

Today mules still play a big part in the day’s events.  Billy Hart brought his donkey named Donkey Donk to the festival.  He said the day is a chance for mule breeders to show their hard work.

“Its great, you know, I – it gives people a chance to show their animals off – you know there are some wonderful animals out here," he said. "I would like to see a lot more people participate in it, you know, than what we have."

After a few hours of mule showing, mule racing hit the big stage.  Dakota Reddish and her mule, Cheyenne, were competing in the barrel racing event. 

“I like going fast," she said. "I run barrels with my horse, and I have two mules at home, plus the one I have here today, and its just what I do, it’s just fun. It’s a sport."

Racing your mule or trying to win best mule in show weren’t the only things to do at Mule Day. As 6-year-old McKenzie Hov explained, some of her favorite pastimes at Mule Day are "watching the shows and other things, and buying things.”

More than 250 vendors sold everything from camouflage clothes and saddles, to funnel cake and alligator on a stick. A portion of the money raised at the Mule Day goes to Calvary Lions Club projects, like services for the blind and the expense of glasses. 

Lions Club officials said, for the past 15 years, there have been 60,000 to a 100,000 visitors every year. And that’s nothing to bray at. 

For more news updates from Steven Rodriguez, follow @StevenRFS on Twitter