Benson Mule Days
Mules are mostly infamous creatures. They’ll never claim the roses of the Kentucky Derby® or share the Hollywood limelight as Shrek’s® best friend. They’re not horses; they’re not donkeys. Instead, they simply fall somewhere in between, a mixture of the two.
But once a year, in Benson, NC, mules are elevated to Derby-Hollywood status. Mules take the stage and are celebrated in a four-day festival affectionately known as “Mule Days.” The tradition began in 1949 when Nowell Smith, Jr. and the McLamb Brothers had the idea for a festival that would both celebrate the farmer and foster community spirit by incorporating the town’s main draft animal – the mule.
For over seventy years, crowds have flocked to the quaint town of Benson on the last weekend of September to enjoy the festivities. Rodeos, mule competitions, arts and crafts, food vendors, dances, carnival rides, camping, parades, Bluegrass shows, and musical concerts draw nearly 30,000 fans over the course of four days, making Benson Mule Days one of the largest annual festivals in North Carolina. Saturday’s parade is a highlight of the Mule Days’ festivities. Local bands, floats, classic cars, antique tractors, beauty queens, and hundreds of horses, mules, buggies, and wagons fill the streets of Benson with joy and laughter.
From the first camper that arrives to Chamber Park on Wednesday afternoon to the last one who pulls up stakes on Sunday afternoon, a good time is had by all, perhaps none more so than the mules. And while they may never trot to the winner’s circle in Kentucky or parade down the red carpet in Hollywood, they will walk through the streets of Benson, NC, with their heads held high. This is their moment to shine. Consider this your invitation to be part of the festivities.