The recent increase of development in Columbia has been astounding. Over the last few years, the downtown Columbia area experienced an influx of local restaurants, businesses, and retail stores thanks to several grants and partnerships. This brings revenue to Columbia and Maury County throughout the entire year. The downtown area prospered several decades ago, but the recent trend swung the pendulum to malls and franchise stores that were one-stop-shops. Now, the shift is returning to locally owned business, restaurants, and boutique stores. Columbia is earning recognition for its Arts District, murals, and more. But for more than the last century, Columbia has always had recognition for Mule Day.
Mule Day is an annual event and a Maury County tradition that has lasted for almost 170 years. Founded in the 1840s, Mule Day originally began as a livestock sale and mule show. Over time, it has grown into a four day event every April, including an arts festival, pageant, and parade. Most events are held at the Maury County Park on Lion Parkway. In the weeks leading up to the event, you can see mule trains (wagons pulled by mules) rolling across Maury County as they head to the park. Smaller events begin on Thursday and Friday with the parade happening on Saturday morning.
The parade progresses from Shoney’s on James Campbell through the downtown area on West 7th street and ends at the park. The parade is a time for individuals to showcase their mules. Mules and other horses are ridden or pull wagons through the streets. It is a prime time for those campaigning for local offices and for businesses to advertise their services. It’s similar to Mardi Gras, in that the wagons and floats often throw candy or treats to those watching. Local high school bands, cheerleaders, and dance teams perform their best numbers while walking in the parade.
Aside from the mules, the atmosphere is the best part of Mule Day. While the parade doesn’t start until 11 a.m. on the first Saturday of April, residents begin lining the streets as early as 7 a.m. in the morning for a prime viewing spot. The homeowners along West 7th street have house parties and tailgates with an overflow of people in the yards. It seems that every year, it gets bigger and the decorations more elaborate. The sense of community is truly amazing.
Mule Day serves not only as an opportunity to showcase Columbia and our history, but also brings profit and notoriety to local businesses. In the last few years the term “Muletown” has started popping up in business and on social media. It’s become the catchy nickname for Columbia that is slowly becoming a brand. If you’re from the area, you know the value that Mule Day brings to the City of Columbia. And if you’re not familiar with it, it really is something to experience. With easy access from Nashville, attending Mule Day is a unique (and relatively inexpensive) day trip and is also great for families.
Mark your calendar for April 6th and see what Mule Day really has to offer!