First-time winner highlights Friday competition
For the first time in the 69-year history of Benson Mule Days, a full-sized mule won’t be reigning as the grand champion.
She’s A Pistol, stable name Ellie, claimed the top prize in Friday’s Mule Competition, becoming the first mini mule to receive the honor.
Owner Lavee Hamer of Vanceboro, N.C., said Friday’s competition was the latest in a streak of wins for Ellie and herself.
“We won at the state fair last week,” she said. “So we’ve been on a little winning streak. I am so proud. We competed here last year, but this is the first time we’ve won this (title) here.”
The competition highlighted the first full day of the annual celebration despite taking place inside a wet and cold Nowell Smith Arena at Chamber Park.
Because of the time table with Friday and Saturday night’s rodeo, organizer Paul Dunn was unable to postpone the start of the event until later in the day.
“We really can’t delay the start of the competition,” Mr. Dunn said Thursday. “We have to be finished by 4 p.m. because of the rodeo.”
If there was one saving grace for Friday’s event, the characteristic mud usually associated with a rainy Mule Days was only minimal thanks to previous work to plant sod in the arena. So it was a fitting showcase for the first mini-mule to ever claim the top spot.
Ms. Hamer said owning the first mini mule to claim the top prize is certainly a special occasion, one she believes is showing a change in how the smaller version of the “Farmer’s Best Friend” looked upon by judges and members of the muleskinner community in general.
“I think it means we’re coming into the era of recognizing the value of mini mules,” she said. “They contribute so much to the economy with the people that show and with all of us that take them out and carry them in parades. They’re great for kids.”
Ms. Hamer and Ellie came together during a horse sale about six years ago. It was there she first saw Ellie, little did she know in the near future she would end up owning the mule.
“I just got into it because I was into horses,” she said. “She came up for sale and somebody else bought her. I told him if you ever decide to sell her I want her desperately. She was the cutest thing I’d ever seen.”
The Mule Competition is always the showpiece of Friday’s events at Mule Days; however, Thursday night’s kick-off concert held it’s own as well.
Nashville recording artist Ronnie McDowell entertained a chilly but enthusiastic crowd with traditional country music and sounds of Elvis Presley.
Mr. McDowell, who topped the country charts in the ’70s and ’80s with such hits as “The King is Gone” and “Older Women,” interacted with the bundled-up crowd in the Singing Grove and left a lasting mark on the audience.
Prior to his performance, Johnsonville area native 19-year-old John Norris warmed the crowd up with a preview of things to come for the young performer.
Using a mix of his own tunes and performances of other artists’ music, Mr. Norris also made a lasting impression on those in attendance.
-The Daily Record