COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WTVF) — Mule Fest 2021 has been scheduled after Mule Day in Columbia was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
In downtown Columbia at Bleu 32 Vintage Marketplace, owner Bonnie Esslinger was not surprised that Mule Day was canceled due to the pandemic. "It put them in a really tough place,” Esslinger said, “So that was sad, but it was a kick in the gut to small businesses because that weekend, or week I should say, brings in $3-million of revenue."
Now, a different group is spearheading a new event called Mule Fest. Bonnie said something is better than nothing. Esslinger said, “It’s just such a huge morale booster for the city."
It all started when Jodi Hoffman created a Save Mule Day group on Facebook. The name has been changed to Maury County Mulefest 2021. Hoffman said, "Very excited. I never thought that us starting a Facebook page would get over 8,000 people on it, now we’re on a committee with Andy Ogles and it’s amazing seeing all of this kind of form together."
Maury County Bridle and Saddle Club, who puts on Mule Day, did not speak publicly. However, they're concerned that a copy-cat event will be confusing to tourists. They plan to have the event in 2022.
Hoffman said, "We have confirmation email from the bridle and saddle club that Mule Day is not a trademark. ‘Mule day Columbia, Tennessee’ is a trademark, we were never trying to hijack their Mule Day."
Mule Fest is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend so more people have time to get vaccinated. Hoffman said, "We want this to be a safe event, but we’re tired of being stuck inside and not having anything for our community, so basically what we did is we stood up for our community."
According to Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles' Facebook page, country star Trace Adkins has decided to play at Mule Fest Friday night, and be the Grand Marshal in the parade on Saturday. The parade route is still up in the air.
Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder issued a statement:
"The City of Columbia has not yet received a Mass Gathering Permit Application, which would be required for any individual or entity wishing to host a mass gathering in the City.
We are told that such an application is forthcoming from those organizing an event in Columbia over the Memorial Day Weekend, and the City of Columbia will review that Application once it is received.
At this time, the City of Columbia does not intend to deny the Permit for a Memorial Day Weekend event on the basis of COVID protocols, given positive strides made in combatting the COIVD 19 pandemic here locally, and continued encouraging trends seen across the state of Tennessee. This decision stems from considerable consultation with emergency management and local public health officials. As with any Mass Gathering Permits, the City would retain the right to revoke the Permit if circumstances changed.
When working with the Mule Day officials, there were plenty of conversations regarding the postponement of the annual event, and the Memorial Day weekend was even considered. Mule Day officials chose not to postpone the event, but instead chose to reschedule for 2022; and we all look forward to welcoming Mule Day back next year.
The City of Columbia has worked diligently with public health partners throughout the COVID 19 pandemic, and we are grateful for those partnerships. We know that our primary obligation is to protect lives and enhance livelihoods, and that goal remains our top priority. Let there be no mistake, it would be premature to claim victory on combatting this pandemic, and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated and to otherwise continue exhibiting safe COVID practices."