Hells Canyon Mule Days at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds in Enterprise will celebrate its 29th year of mule-oriented fun in September, and it's still growing by leaps and bounds every year.
You will not want to miss even oneof the three days of long-eared fun Sept. 11-13. Mule - and mule fanciers - converge from all over the Northwest every year for the action.
For those of you who have seen a mule on television but do not really know how you get one: a mule is the offspring of a donkey and a horse. If they have a donkey father, they're called a mule. If they have a donkey mother, they're called a hinney. Donkey fathers are called "Jacks." All offspring have long ears.At Mule Days all kinds, sizes and colors of long-eared kin are celebrated: mules, hinneys and donkeys.
Mules played an important part in settling some of the wilder parts of Wallowa County, and are still the animal of choice for packing in summer visitors and fall hunters.
Mule Days is centered around three competitive mule shows - for all ages of driver and rider - where mules pull carts, run races, barrel race, pole bend, jump fences, maneuver obstacles and are loaded down with heavy packs.
There's also a non-motorized Saturday morning parade where all the entrants get to strut their stuff.
The green outside the rodeo arena is filled with vendors selling food, mule art, tack and all kinds of things centered around mules and the Old West.
A wonderful three-day quilt show at nearby Cloverleaf Hall, exhibits up to 100 quilts, including a special mule quilt section. A Wallowa County Ranch Woman trunk show will be added this year.
Other events include a big horse and mule sale - where anyone can find a mule to take home - western entertainment and a pit barbecue.
Last year a Dutch Oven Cook-Off was held for the first time, proved a big hit and is expected to make a return in 2009.
It's not all spectator sport at Mule Days. Kids ages 5 to 9 years can compete in the Stick Mule Races and Boot Scramble events (every kid gets a ribbon). If you're on the other end of the age scale, don't be shy; there's an award for the oldest spectator, too. And if you think your family has driven the farthest to enjoy the event, raise your hand! There is also an award for that.
Enterprise is one of the last places in the world where you will see oxen hitches, as well. The Old World Oxen Living History Company will set up camp with gentle six-foot tall oxen, a freighter's wagon, and Sheryl Curtis, a lady 'bullwhacker' who will take your kids 150 years back in time with hands-on experiences lifted off the pages of an 1853 Journal.
The admission charge - $10 adults and $8 for seniors 60 and older (free for kids 12 and under) - is the same for one or all three mule shows (with a souvenir button).
For a full schedule of events, photos and more information, visit (www.hellscanyonmuledays.com), or call Mule Days president Sondra Lozier, 541-426-3271, cell 541-263-0104, or toll free, 888-323-3271.