One of the largest parades in North Carolina took to the streets of Benson Saturday morning as the annual Mule Days Parade took center stage.
The parade, with more than 100 traditional entries and another 100 or more equine entries, was another success.
Prior to the start of the parade, Main Street was alive with colors, smiles, laughter and all of the excitement that comes with such a festive occasion.
“It’s been a great Mule Days so far,” Chamber of Commerce President Loretta Byrd said during the annual breakfast. “We’ve once again been blessed with good weather and lots of excitement.”
The warm weather didn’t stop anyone from having a good time. The faces of the children sitting along the curb told the whole story.
One little girl, 6-year-old Lilly Cooley, was sitting wearing a cowboy hat and holding a bottle of water.
When she was asked if she was ready for the parade to start, she had a simple smile and a short answer. “Yup,” she said through a grin. “I’m ready.”
Just down the street, 10-year-old Newton Grove resident Madison Burton didn’t have much to say when asked about the parade, her smile and look of anticipation said it all.
When asked if she was ready to see the parade, she just nodded her head and smiled.
During the breakfast, which was a chance for town officials, guests and chamber members to share memories and stories about past Mule Days, outgoing Mayor William Massengill said the event was a signature moment for the community.
In his last Mule Days as mayor, he said the town should be proud of what they’ve accomplished and should enjoy the celebration that Mule Days portrays to the rest of the state.
“Mule Days is one of the greatest festivals in North Carolina,” he said.
“This is a chance to not only have fun at Mule Days, it also allows us the chance to celebrate Benson.”
In addition to honoring long-time Mule Days volunteer and Mule Judging competition announcer Don Stroud as grand marshal, there were four familiar faces sitting on the judges stand.
Judging were WRAL-TV news anchor Gerald Owens along with former Miss North Carolina Kate Peacock, Johnston Community College Foundation Executive Director Dr. Twyla Wells and Crystal Roberts, chief of communications and engagement for Johnston County Schools.
Miss Peacock, who had previously served as the first Miss Benson’s Outstanding Teen in 2012, said it was only natural for her to be there in a new role.
“I’ve been in the parade many times,” she said. “Now I’m happy to be a judge.”
As the final entries in the parade — the horses, mules and donkeys that are the heart and soul of Mule Days — passed by the judges stand, Mrs. Byrd offered the chamber’s thanks to the crowd and invited them to return for the 69th edition next September.
“Thank you for being here and making this another wonderful Mule Days,” she said. “We look forward to seeing you here next year. Goodbye and thanks.”
The Mule Days Parade was one of many activities in Benson this past weekend which really started Thursday with a concert and a carnival. There were rodeos, dances, tons of food, a wide array of vendors and many other activities as campers packed up Sunday and headed back home. Most will be back next year and probably some new visitors as well. Story and photo courtesy The Daily Record