Mule Days goes off without a hitch, despite delay

Saturday morning’s cool temperatures and cloudy skies didn’t seem to affect the enthusiasm of folks who decided to take in the Mule Days Parade and prevent them from taking a stroll down Parrish Drive to find the food of their choice or to just talk with friends and enjoy the day.

Parade highlights Saturday’s celebration

Wet, windy and cold temperatures on Friday didn’t seem to leave a lasting impression on those who decided to get out on Saturday at the 69th annual Mule Days Celebration in Benson.

With a cool morning and cloudy skies, the delayed Mule Days moved into the second day of its run. The annual celebration of the “Farmer’s Best Friend” had been a victim of Hurricane Florence, one that only needed a little time to regroup before moving full speed ahead this past weekend.

Benson Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Chairman Ben Cook said he never expected to be one of the decision makers who moved the festival from its usual fourth week in September place on the calendar for the first time in the celebration’s history.

“When I took this job I said I wanted to make some changes,” he said. “Moving Mule Days for the first time was not that plan. But with all that rain we had initially and all the rain we had yesterday, when you look at the challenges, you’ve got to get through the rain to get through the rainbow.”

The rainbow was filled with multiple events on Saturday. The parade, two performances of the annual rodeo — Friday’s go-round had to be postponed because of the rain and cold temps — and the music and food that filled the Singing Grove, Main Street and Parrish Drive.

No trace of disappointment or any sign of enthusiasm being diminished by the weather could be found.

This year’s parade featured around 100 units, not including the plethora of equine entrants which followed the fire trucks, police cars, beauty queens, marching bands and floats down Main Street, which was smaller mainly due to the forced shift in when the celebration took place.

“Even though our schedule has changed, our enthusiasm has not,” said Benson Mayor Jerry Medlin. “We’re so thankful that folks are here with us today. They help make us the center of attention and the most beautiful downtown in the country.”

During his speech to guests of the Mule Days Breakfast, Mayor Medlin boasted proudly of the town and the backdrop for the celebration.

“Just look at the beautiful storefronts and the people that are here visiting and going to those stores,” he told the crowd. “Benson is truly a special town and we hope you enjoy your experience in Benson while you’re here for Mule Days.”

During the breakfast, Town Manager Matt Zapp paid tribute to one of the people who had worked behind the scenes at Mule Days for many years. The late Evelyn Aranda lost a battle with cancer on Aug. 6 and was unable to share the celebration with the many friends and acquaintances she had collected during her time working for the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce.

Prior to a moment of silence for Mrs. Aranda, Mr. Zapp paid tribute.

“This year is a difficult one for us, we’ve lost one of our closest allies in the Mule Days festivities,” he said. “I’m going to encourage you and challenge you today. I want to envision in your mind a person who moves the world, a person who gives more than they receive. And if you can’t think of that person, I’m going to ask that you pray this morning that you be that Evelyn Aranda to them.”

-The Daily Record