COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WTVF) — After the pandemic canceled a Maury County tradition for the second year in a row, a new event brought thousands of people to downtown Columbia.
The two-day Mule Fest started Friday night. The free event featured 200 arts and crafts and food vendors from across the region, and two stages with live music. Country music star Trace Adkins performed Friday night, and will also serve as the grand marshal of the parade on Saturday.
City leaders and the Maury County Bridle and Saddle Club announced in February, Mule Day would be canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns. The popular four-day event dates back to the 1840s and brings as many as 150,000 visitors to Columbia.
Shortly after the event was canceled, a “Save Mule Day” Facebook page launched, and eventually lead to a Go Fund Me that raised more than $10,000 to host a similar, scaled-back event.
"We needed an economic driver, and that’s what you’ve got here," said Andy Ogles, Mayor of Maury County. "We’ve got so many treasures here, and part of my job is to let people know about it."
Mayor of Columbia, Chaz Molder, said the city approved a mass gathering permit for Mule Fest after a careful review.
“We wish the organizers and all participants a very successful event, and we welcome our visitors to the city of Columbia, a city that is on the move in a very good way,” said Molder in a statement. “Like many fellow Columbians, I look forward to Mule Day's return in 2022, and I am confident that event will be bigger and better than ever before.”
For small business owners like Brandy Pinkerton, it was a chance to introduce her homemade candles to new customers.
"This is getting back to normal, and to be a part of something so big with everyone out, it's awesome," said Pinkerton, who owns Small Town Candle Co. in Mt. Pleasant.
Mayor Ogles said he hoped to make Mule Fest an annual event on Memorial Day weekend.
Mule Fest activities continue Saturday, May 29. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The parade will happen at 11 a.m.
The Maury County Bridle and Saddle Club says Mule Day will return Mar. 28- Apr. 3, 2022.