The Wallowa County Fairgrounds in Enterprise will be the place to be Sept. 6 - 8 as Hells Canyon Mule Days kicks off its 22nd year. Events start Friday at 7 p.m. with jackpot roping - all combinations, horses and mules. The show office opens for registration at 6 p.m. Friday.

This year's grand marshal is Merel Hawkins from Wallowa.He began packing for Arnold Schaeffer at Lapover and for Kenneth Hall at Wallowa Lake in the summer os 1954 after graduating from high school.In those days horse rates were $5 per day, and $15 a day with a packer along.

In 1980, the Hawkins family won Tree Farmer of the Year, as well as running cattle, farming and packing - a very busy schedule for any family. Hawkins can recount both humorous and serious stories about packing with mules. He's full of a wealth of information about his years of packing, people he has met, and mules he has worked with.

In the spring of 1981, local ranchers and packers met with representatives of the Wallowa County Chamber of commerce and USDA Forest Service to explore the idea of putting together a new county event.

As a result, the mule - tough, intelligent, individualistic, often maligned, but the mainstay of the many packers and outfitters working in Wallowa county - was elevated to center stage for the first Hells Canyon Mule Days Celebration in September of 1981. Hells Canyon was an appropriate title because that area owes mot of its early settlement and development ot the mule which served as a major means of transportation.

Given the well-known independence of Mule Days' long-eared star, the entertaining, action-packed event has met its initial goal - fun for both mule skinners and spectators, family events for all ages from halter to cattle events and fun events, too.

This year's Hells Canyon Mule Days volunteer committee is being headedup by the Enterprise Merchants' Association. For information call (541) 519-7154, please leave your name and phone number, so volunteerscan assist you with any questions.

Volunteer show director is Shawna DeVault, 426-0285; assistant show director, Sue Walker, 426-0299; parade director, Susan Norman, 426-8245.

Parade line-up will be at 10 a.m., with the parade beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday this 2002 season.

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