Standing room only for Mule Days
Caltrans District 9 is putting down its orange foot this year and banning chairs from the sidewalks bordering Highway 395 before the 2017 Mule Days parade. For the uninitiated, the Mule Days Parade is one of the longest non-motorized parades on the planet and has traveled down a major interstate Highway (395), every Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend since 1969.
Dedicated parade patrons have made a tradition of placing chairs in their favorite spots on the sidewalk, and some even chain and lock their chairs to streetlamps or signposts as early as the weekend before.
No one’s counted the number of chairs but it has been estimated at “hundreds,” according to the people interviewed for this story including Bishop City Councilman and former Bishop Police Chief Joe Pecsi. He said he remembers seeing chairs on the sidewalk before the parade since the 1970s.
The chairs create a safety issue, according to Florene Trainor, Public Information Officer for Caltrans. One year, a gust of wind blew a stringer of chairs, linked together with chain, into Highway 395 traffic, Trainor said. The chairs got caught in the undercarriage of a big rig and no one got hurt, she added, but may have caused harm if it struck a motorcycle or bicyclist.
Executive Director for the Bishop Chamber of Commerce Tawni Thompson said she once saw a mother forced out into Highway 395 with her stroller and child, because the chairs took up so much space on the sidewalk.
“We’ve had people complain about the chairs for years,” Thompson said.
Trainor added there has never been a serious accident like someone tripping over a chair and falling into traffic, but she doesn’t want to see or hear of one.