In the mid 1800s, Columbia Tennessee was known as a major mule trading center, a place farmers knew they could find quality animals to plow their fields. It wasn’t until 1934 that the reputation evolved into a formal Mule Day, which was held off and on since then, although today’s version began in earnest in 1974. Mule Day has been called “Rural America at its Best.” So just what is a mule, you ask? Good question! If daddy is a donkey and mommy is a horse, you’ve got yourself a mule. They are usually, but not always, born sterile, and tend to combine the best traits of both species.

Country ham, biscuits, grits, red eye gravy ...

Country ham, biscuits, grits, red-eye gravy …

There are loads of activities going on all week, from all kinds of mule shows, auctions, a wagon train, mule racing, and parades, to dancing and live musical performances. Of course, what grabs our attention are all the great country vittles. The Hee-Haw Chili Supper, featuring homemade chili and homemade desserts, for $6, takes place Thursday night. Thursday through Saturday you can enjoy Ham & White Bean Plates with cornbread, or country ham and biscuits. There’s a fried fish dinner with hush puppies on Friday and a country ham breakfast with biscuits and red-eye gravy Saturday.

Wagon Train

Wagon Train

Other Saturday morning breakfast options include a pancake breakfast and something billed as Bloodys and Biscuits (bloody Marys and country ham biscuits) at the James K. Polk Home. To learn more about this huge festival that attracts over 100,000 eager visitors, check out the extensive website and online program and schedule.