Mule Mania a kick for Dayton

The second annual celebration of mules comes with a wagon load of fun and food.

Mules Belle and Kate pull Doug Krueger's wagonette.

Mules Belle and Kate pull Doug Krueger's wagonette. Ken Graham

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Doug Krueger puts his team of driving mules, Belle and Kate, through their paces outside Dayton. The Columbia County Fairgrounds will host its second Mule Mania festival, running Thursday through Sunday.

Mule Mania Dayton

July 19-22

All events (except parade) take place at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in Dayton.

Thursday

Mule Cup Golf Tournament – 9 a.m.

Riding competition – beginning 1 p.m.

Welcome potluck party and chuck wagon – 6 p.m.

Riding competition – beginning 8 p.m.

Friday

Clinics and showing – beginning 9 a.m.

Barrel racing – beginning 1 p.m.

Riding competitions – beginning 1 p.m. & 7:15 p.m.

Chuck Wagon Cook-Off and Feed – 5 p.m. ($15 per person – quantity limited.)

Saturday

Mule Mania Parade in Downtown Dayton – 10 a.m.

Trail mule and donkey classes – 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Driving and riding competitions – beginning 1 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.

Chuck Wagon Cook-Off and Feed – 5 p.m. ($15 per person – quantity limited.)

Sunday

Cowboy Church Services – 7 a.m.

Driving and riding competitions – beginning at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

High point awards presentation – 4:30 p.m.

“The Gathering”, featuring western collectible vendors, will be open throughout Mule Mania.

Beer Garden will open at noon Friday and Saturday.

Mule Mania admission is free for all visitors.

For more information and a complete schedule, go to www.mulemaniadayton.com, or call the Dayton Chamber of Commerce at 509-382-4825.

— DAYTON — Ancient Egypt had them, and they were key to settling the American wilderness.

But this weekend Dayton will be the mule capital of the Northwest

More than 150 mules and donkeys — and their owners — are expected to arrive for the second annual Mule Mania show at the Columbia County Fairgrounds Thursday through Sunday. Admission is free

Mule Mania is a celebration of the cross-breeding of male donkeys (jacks) and female horses (mares). Their counterparts, the offspring of stallions and jennies, are much rarer and are called “hinnies.”

Mules are known to have existed in ancient Egypt, and they have a long history in the United States. George Washington is credited as the first American mule breeder. Mules were used by the Army until well after World War I. The also were commonplace on farms, pulling plows and wagons until the mid-20th century, particularly in the South.

Visitors to Mule Mania will see many beautiful examples of antique and reproduction wagons, driven by teams of up to eight mules.

Doug Krueger of Dayton has owned pack mules — used to carry supplies on their backs — for many years. In 2005, he and his wife, Margie, bought their first driving mules, along with a small wagon called a “wagonnette.”

For a ride around his property north of Dayton, Krueger hitched Belle and Kate to the wagonnette and expertly coaxed them to a rapid clip. They willingly complied with whatever Krueger requested.

He explained how mules are considered to be more patient than horses and more intelligent than donkeys.

“People call them stubborn, but they’re really not,” he said.

Krueger has built two more mule wagons, one of which he uses each year to give rides in Dayton during its Christmas Kickoff celebration.

Krueger is leading the group of volunteers getting the county fairgrounds ready for Mule Mania, working closely with groundskeeper Norm Thomas.

“Norm has been a huge help and a big supporter of Mule Mania,” said Krueger. “We had many compliments on how the nice the fairgrounds looked during last year’s show.”

For several years, the Kruegers have been clients of Barney and Bobbi Jo Chambers, proprietors of Coyote Mule Company in Cottonwood, Idaho.

In 2010, the Chambers mentioned that they wanted to organize a mule show in eastern Washington. Kreuger suggested Dayton, and he connected the Chambers with the Dayton Chamber of Commerce and Les Teel, chief executive of Columbia REA.

After a visit to the Columbia County Fairgrounds, the Chambers were convinced it was perfect the show, with a large arena and lots of space to house mules and trailers. They previously had organized several mule shows north of Spokane in Colville but figured Dayton would be more convenient for many mule owners.

Teel, a mule owner himself, signed up to be the local event chairman. Columbia REA is also lead sponsor for Mule Mania.

The first Mule Mania last year drew about 120 participating mules and hundreds of visitors.

“The chuck wagon cook-off was very popular last year,” Teel said, “and this year it will be bigger and better.”

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