Note: This story has been updated to reflect the corrected date for the Dave Stamey concert.
ENTERPRISE — With a motto of “COVID-19 Kicked Our Ass in 2020,” the annual Hells Canyon Mule Days will take place in a limited fashion, this week, with the return of the two-day Ty Evans mulemanship clinic and the Dave Stamey country and Western concert at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds.
The rest of the events in conjunction with Mule Days were canceled July 3, as organizers believed they would not be able to follow Oregon Health Authority guidelines on social distancing, face masks, mandatory safety and cleaning protocols for the fairgrounds and restrooms, and to limit the number of people at the event. This is the first time in the event’s 40-year history it has been canceled, organizers said.
However, all is not lost, said Sondra Lozier, president of the Mule Days organization.
The clinic will take place today, Wednesday, Sept. 9, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Cost is $250 per class. Spectators are welcome.
Evans, along with his wife, Skye, and daughters, Ellie and Swayzee, spend nine to 10 months each year traveling all over the United States, Canada and Australia teaching mulemanship clinics geared toward helping riders and their mules get along a little better, according to a press release.
Evans enjoys helping individuals establish a partnership with their mules and develop clear lines of communication between animal and handler. The style of mulemanship Evans teaches not only works great for mules, but is also very much applicable to horses and donkeys, as well.
Evans’ motto is “Helping people with mule problems, and mules with people problems.” At the clinics, the main goal is to bring out the best in the mule. He said he has discovered that by bringing out the best in the mule, it also brings out the best in the people.
The Dave Stamey concert Saturday, Sept. 12, has been moved from the OK Theatre to the open-air stage at the fairgrounds. Concessions will not be sold during the concert and adequate seating will be provided, but it is suggested to bring a favorite lawn chair, Lozier said. Attendance is limited to 250.
Tickets are $25. The grounds open at 5 p.m. and concert is at 6 p.m. and is expected to run until 8:30 p.m.
Stamey has been a cowboy, a mule packer, a dude wrangler and is now one of the most popular Western entertainers working today. He has been voted seven times Entertainer of the Year, seven times Male Performer of the Year and five times aSongwriter of the Year by the Western Music Association. He also received the Will Rogers Award from the Academy of Western Artists. He’s delighted audiences in 23 states, and finds that he prefers this to being stomped by angry horses.
In November 2016, Dave was inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame.
Lozier said that despite the majority of Mule Days events being canceled, the organizers still have a Mule Days T-shirt on sale for $20. They’re available at Favorite Finds on Main Antiques and Thompson Auto Supply. There’s also a button to show support for Mule Days — they are asking for a $5 donation to support the group’s scholarship fund.
In light of canceling most of the Mule Days events, the Mule Days board voted to award the three $1,000 Max Walker Memorial Scholarships to three Wallowa County High School seniors for this year, even though the scholarships are funded in part by donations from the cowboy poetry gathering and from its sponsors. The board said it has been a difficult year for the graduating seniors and it was unfair to deny them the help they applied for.
Lozier said they are asking everyone to follow COVID-19 guidelines for the health and safety of the community. She said organizers are expecting to have the regular Mule Days events return Sept. 10-12, 2021 — the week after Labor Day.
For tickets to the Evans clinic or the Stamey concert, contact Lozier by phone at 541-426-3229, 541-263-0104 or by email at email@example.com.