ENTERPRISE — This year’s Hells Canyon Mule Days is suffering the same fate as a number of other events throughout Oregon with nearly all its components being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and required social distancing, according to event president Sondra Lozier.
What will be happening are the two-day Ty Evans clinic scheduled on Sept. 9-10, before the Mule Days show dates, and the Dave Stamey concert (regulations permitting) Sept. 12 at the OK Theatre in downtown Enterprise.
However, there will be no Mule Days show, vendors, exhibitors, cowboy poetry gathering, cowboy church, dutch oven cook-off, parade, Saturday night pit barbecue dinner or mule sale, Lozier said.
The Mule Days board issued a statement Friday, July 3, that it is not possible to follow Oregon Health Authority guidelines on social distancing, mandatory safety and cleaning protocols for the Wallowa County Fairgrounds and restrooms, to limit the number of people at the event and to follow Gov. Kate Brown’s mandate for everyone to wear a mask.
“It is out of concern for the health and well-being of our Wallowa County communities and for those who visit us that we make this decision,” Lozier said. “We place the health and safety of our contestants, exhibitors and vendors, spectators, volunteers and everyone connected with the mule show above all else and that made this the only decision possible.”
This is the first time in the event’s 40-year history it has been canceled.
“This is incredibly disappointing,” Lozier said. “I assure everyone that this decision was not made lightly. Our board was unanimous that this was the only option. As disappointing as this is, we look forward to welcoming everyone back to Enterprise in 2021 when we plan to celebrate the 40th annual Hells Canyon Mule Days event.”
The 2021 dates are set for Sept. 10-12 at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds.
In light of canceling the Mule Days events, the 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.