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To a Bishop Mule Days volunteer, Mule Days never really ends. Oh sure, everyone packs up and goes home, the fairgrounds hosts other events, and the seasons change, but Mule Days is always right around the corner. If you are like me, you have a pre-packed bin of Mule Days gear – shirts that are too nice to ride in everyday, a favorite lanyard, a Mule Days branded ball cap, and that special wildrag packed and ready to go. Our Memorial Day plans rarely change – load the camping gear and head to Bishop! Is it too early to start packing?

close up image of trimming a mule's mane.

Bishop Mule Days is a week long event run by an army of volunteers. The motto is “When a town becomes a team” and it is truly impressive to be a part of this amazing group of people. Volunteers staff the entrances, organize campers and stock trailer parking, they set up dining halls and serve meals, they patrol the fairgrounds and answer countless questions, they sell tickets, stock souvenirs, and scrub bathrooms. For ten days volunteers are on site watching the very first of the competitors pulling in and setting up camp to the very last of them pulling away for home. Many volunteers come from out of town, and camp right alongside the contestants and attendees at the fairgrounds.

Image of RV camping at Bishop Mule Days

I started volunteering in 2005, so I’m a bit of a newcomer. There are people who have been a part of this event for as long as it has been in existence and one of the great joys of a volunteer is to rack up the years. Like many, I was brought into the fold by a friend who volunteered. In turn, I’ve invited additional friends to join the team and some have stayed, while some have moved on. One thing I can count on, every year, is that I will see people that I don’t see any other time but Mule Days. It’s an annual reunion of sorts; a work / play reunion based on our mutual love of all things equine and western.

image of a group of volunteer women wearing pink

You don’t have to have special skills to be a volunteer – but if you do, you might find those skills utilized at the event. The most important thing you can bring is a can-do attitude with a strong sense of responsibility. If you say you will do it, do it. Showing up is what counts, and you end up being part of a large family of people who show up. This is a beautiful thing.

One of my favorite parts of being a volunteer at Mule Days is being on the inside of all the action. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed events when I have a job to do – when I’m the host or the caterer or have some other role outside of just attending. Being a volunteer gives me a purpose and an investment in the event. After working with others on my committee over the years, we have bonded as friends, and while there are always new people joining our committee and always people leaving, we maintain a strong sense of community. We stay in touch year round and really look forward to our annual reunion.

close up of a mule with teeth showing

Although the planning begins much sooner, the semi-official kick-off to Mule Days is the Volunteer Dinner. We gather at the fairgrounds for a casual evening of food, conversation, and schedule sign-ups. We are reminded of the important role we play in the success of Mule Days, and we are thanked for doing what we do. If we travel from afar, we are also most likely settling in at the fairgrounds. I like to set up camp early and watch the activity ramping up as days pass… trucks and trailers rolling in, vendors setting up their booths, competitors grooming their mules and practicing their events. It starts out like a small town rodeo, but by Memorial Day weekend it is a bustling, vibrant, noisy, exciting happening with lots of people and animals moving about.

image of young packers walking with their mules image of two mules hitched up to a wagon.

Volunteer days start early and end late. We’re up at dawn feeding animals and cleaning pens at our camp. Competitions begin by 7 am most mornings, shows end around 9 pm, and volunteers run it all. We try not to miss the volunteer lunch served daily because walking into that cool, shady building is such a treat after a morning of sun and dust, plus the food is good and there is plenty of it. Back at camp the ice chests stay stocked with water, ice, and refreshing snacks for our afternoon shifts. We check our schedules, re-apply sunscreen, and adjust our hats before heading out again.

image of hand held radios and watermelon slices image of Bishop Mule Days mounted security team on horses and mules.

We check on animals and are on the lookout for lost children (or parents). We answer questions, problem solve, check our radios, apply more sunscreen, and drink more water. The weather is notoriously fickle over Memorial Day, so we layer up or down, trading wide-brimmed hats for ball caps when the winds pick up, and packing that rain slicker just in case. We go where we are needed, step up to fill in if there is a no-show, and sneak peeks at the ongoing shows and competitions between shifts.

image of two mules hitched up to a wagon. image of the 20 Mule Team in the arena at Bishop Mule Days

During breaks, since we camp onsite, there’s time to cruise the vendors – multiple times. Everyone I know saves up for Mule Days… a great place to find tack, hats, camp gear, jewelry, art…. just about anything western you might have on the list. And if you can’t find it at the vendors on site, the Memorial Day Arts & Crafts Festival runs all weekend just down the road at the Bishop City Park.

image of a rawhide craftsman at Bishop Mule Days image of a row of saddles for sale. image of a hat vendor with western hats.

Evenings, after the shows and our last shifts, are for campfires and conversation. We gather around new-fangled fire pits that keep the fires from destroying the grass underneath, and listen to music from someone’s well-curated playlist, share food we’ve prepared, and talk about the day, our plans for tomorrow and just about anything else that comes up. Other volunteers drop by to visit. It’s camping, but with a purpose. Everyone turns in pretty early, because as I mentioned – the days start early!

photo of full moon and U.S. flag flying

Being part of an event like Bishop Mule Days is something I’ll continue as long as I’m able. Celebrating history, Americana, the west, traditions, and skills in a location unparalleled for its beauty, Bishop Mule Days is a bucket list item for many people, and for volunteers it is something we get to experience year after year from a unique perspective. There’s always room for new volunteers, and we hope you’ll consider joining the team.

image of a woman standing in front of a line of show ribbons image of a zebra being ponied by a woman on horseback.

If you’d like to volunteer for Bishop Mule Days, head on over to the website: https://muledays.org/, click on participate, and scroll down the to volunteer link. You can also call the Mule Days office for more information at (760) 872-4263 or email  them at . Don’t hesitate, it’s just around the corner!

 

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1 day ago

Sunsets around here never get old. 😍
#nofilter #visitbishop #bishopBIGbackyard
Photo by Betsy Johnson
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Sunsets around here never get old. 😍
#nofilter #visitbishop #bishopBIGbackyard
Photo by Betsy Johnson

Comment on Facebook

I've got a lot of nice trout up in Bishop I love it there

Beautiful picture

Love the sky's @ sunsets and sunrise. I have some beautiful pictures of the area. This looks to be below pleasant valley campground on the lower Owens. I fly fished all over the west, This is still my favorite water!!!

What a lovely picture of the beautiful, colorful ,peaceful sky it's so breathtaking. 💘

Classic Western Sky with cattle to add to the picture. Hearing some Western music in the back ground. Just need a windmill. <3

Those Happy Cows love the Bishop sunsets.

STUNNING🌹🌹

And I love Bishop!😊

I love it in the late afternoon when the Sierra's cast their shadow on the White Mountains

HOME ! !

These views never get old. MIss them.

Beautiful Sun 🌞set

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1 day ago

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Comment on Facebook

Snow in the mountains, but dry in the valley, that's why we love Bishop!

Pretty

God I miss it!

Beautiful!!

Home sweet home beautiful

Ready to roll there!!!!

Beautiful

Every time I go south on 395 I'm amazed at the beauty of the eastern Sierra Nevada could spend a lifetime in the Mountains There

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1 day ago

Definitely feels and looks like winter around here these days.... this is a shot from yesterday.
📷 by Julie Faber
#visitbishop #bishopBIGbackyard
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Definitely feels and looks like winter around here these days.... this is a shot from yesterday. 
📷 by Julie Faber
#visitbishop #bishopBIGbackyard

Comment on Facebook

Wish you'd post what mountains we're looking at. Lovely photograph!

This is absolutely beautiful! 😊😀

wow, such a beautiful post, need long johns to stay longer then an hour in that snow ?

Awesome picture

Fabulous!

... name of the "pyramid peak" please.....

Hello Tom!

Mt. Tom

Beautiful

Beautiful

Beautiful

Frank

I need to go fishing on the Owens or PVR, been a while.

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3 days ago

Who loves a little winter fishing???? We've got it year-round here!!Out side enjoying the lower Owens River. Snow storms are rare in the Owens Valley. Snow only lasts a few days at the most. Photo by @leviaguilera_photography ... See MoreSee Less

Who loves a little winter fishing???? Weve got it year-round here!!

Comment on Facebook

Glad to see L A didn’t get all the Owens valley water!

Beautiful background !

Looks cold, but what a great place.

plenty of brown trout,large trout at bridgport res

always did ice fishing onway to bridgport

He should wear one of those wrist bands or forehead bands which shows his temperature so he can regulate. Risky sports have science to make them safer.

Love to go fishing in this stream ! Look at the great snow.😁

Refreshing, stunning, incredibly beautiful and the bestest fishing ever ! I love Bishop !😲👍🇺🇸🦅🇺🇸🎅☃️🎄💥

Oh yea!! He’s gettin them native Browns right there!!

I have fished the Lower Owens for many years, winter is the best because of reduced flows. Great Blue wing olive hatches, and plenty of wild browns. I fished this same run pictured . Love this River and the town of Bishop.

SUPERB SCENARY💝

Benton crossing?

That looks so amazing

Jo Nathan we need to go asap!

Do you know where your legs are?

Is that you Josh Beck?

Fred Powers

Nope

♥️

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