My family moved to Winfield when I was halfway through second grade.
My dad had been hired as the youth minister at Winfield First Baptist Church, so we moved to Winfield and have been here ever since.
When we first arrived, my dad was informed of a tradition that applied to newcomers to town.
He was asked to be a pooper scooper in the annual Mule Day parade.
My family used to live in Vernon, so my parents were aware of Mule Day, but I was too young to remember it, so I was hearing of it for the first time.
My first memory of Mule Day is standing out in the hot sun watching my dad pick up equine excrement with a shovel along with a few other new Winfieldians.
As a kid, there was a lot I enjoyed about Mule Day: the parade of mules, horses and tractors, the Civil War reenactment in the park, the various fried and/or frozen foods, and so much more.
My family developed several annual traditions each year, like buying a Philly Cheesesteak and some roasted corn for lunch, or handing out water on the front steps of the church in the morning.
I rang in several years in a row as the clock struck midnight, running in the Mule Night Madness 5k while I was on the cross country team.
There was always something magical about running on the mostly empty streets in the middle of the night.
One of the first times I ever ran was in the one-mile fun run back when the run was held in the morning, and before I was old enough to run cross country in school.
I remember coloring pictures of mules and tractors in school as hype built for our fun annual festival.
I always loved walking the streets on Mule Night and Mule Day, just seeing what all the vendors had to offer.
I always loved checking out the tables covered in various knives and swords.
I rarely bought anything, but it was fun to see just the sheer variety of what was available.
But last year, and now this year, Mule Day was called off due to the ongoing pandemic.
I haven’t gotten to eat roasted corn in two years.
I don’t get to hear the sound of someone testing out a taser under one of the vendor’s tents.
I don’t get to see my friends stocking up on katanas and ninja stars.
But as sad as that is, and as upset as I know a lot of other people are, I think the right choice was made.
It looked like COVID was going away for a while, but the numbers have since skyrocketed.
Alabama literally has less than 10% of its ICU beds available right now. Our hospitals are full, and there are hardly any beds and ventilators to spare.
That’s the situation at our hospital right now. There just isn’t room, and that’s just from COVID. Mule Day tends to get pretty hot each year, and heat stroke has been a common issue in years past.
If that were to happen this year, where would they go?
Then there’s the issue of crowds.
The streets are packed each year with thousands of people from all over the country. That’s the perfect situation for COVID to spread around town, and then other places as people return home that afternoon so they can watch the Bama game.
As much as it stinks to miss out on all of the fun traditions, canceling Mule Day was the right call.
How much is the fun worth if people suffer and die because of it?
My roasted corn isn’t worth someone losing a loved one.
I hate that the cancellation is hurting local businesses, but this pandemic has been hard on everyone, and it’s far from over.
Hopefully, by making hard choices like this, we can end this stupid pandemic and not have to fool with it anymore.
So let’s take things seriously and do whatever we can to help end the pandemic so we can all enjoy Mule Day next year and in the years to come. I need my roasted corn, y’all!
See complete story in the Journal Record.