The Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival will celebrate Missouri culture Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4. The annual event in downtown West Plains, Mo., celebrates Ozarks music and culture. Admission to all festival events is free. Festival hours are 10 a.m.-9 p.m. each day, with music scheduled noon – 9 p.m.
A demonstration of mule jumping will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 4, in the parking lot near the West Plains Senior Center at the corner of East Main and South Curry Streets. The Mule Jump Competition, sponsored by Hirsch Feed & Farm Supply, will take place at 7 p.m. that day, coordinated by Richie Dement of Centerville.
Mule jumping, that most Missourian of Missouri folk arts, seems to have developed when raccoon hunters began training mules to jump over fences so that they did not have to interrupt the hunt to locate a gate. It became a competitive event unto itself, and mule jumping contests began to take place at county fairs and town picnics throughout much of the rural Southeast and Midwest, especially Missouri. “Based on the research I’ve done, it appears that there are more mule jumps annually in Missouri than in any other state”, festival committee member Matt Meacham said. “It seems safe to say that the Show-Me State is the mule-jumpingest state in the country.”
All trainers of jumping mules are invited to participate in the Festival’s mule jump competition. Prizes of $100 (first place), $75 (second place), and $50 (third place) will be awarded in each of three classes based on the mule’s height: Small – 48” and under, Medium – 54” and under, Large – over 54”. Standard Missouri rules will apply. Water and ample space for trailers will be available.
Pre-registration is recommended but not required. Contestants who wish to pre-register may contact Matt Meacham at 417-372-3177 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All participants are asked to check in on-site by 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Those who have questions about specific policies and procedures may contact coordinator Richie Dement at 573-648-2524.
The mule jump at the Festival in 2011 became the subject of an article in the Wall Street Journal, Meacham noted. “Although we can’t guarantee that competitors will receive international media coverage again this year, we can guarantee that they’ll have the attention of an enthusiastic, supportive audience and the appreciation of the organizers of the Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival.”