Nov 18, 2013 8:27 PM by Erika Flores

Without mules, a look at Winterhaven's jeep-drawn carriages

TUCSON - Holiday hayrides will be pulled by motors instead of mules at the Winterhaven Festival of Lights this year.

Organizers are citing safety concerns for both visitors and the animals.

We took an up-close look at the jeeps that will lead the wagons.

It's a Christmas tradition some people just don't want to let go, horse and mule-drawn wagon rides.

"I am 100 percent not happy," said a Winterhaven resident. "The Christmas spirit I feel like is being taken away."

This year, vendors are already starting to make changes after the festival's committee announced hayrides can no longer be led by horses or mules.

"This one here has had its braking system installed, and we like the idea of the jeep because they're open and we can participate with our people," said Julie Wycoff with Winterhaven Rides.

Wycoff said she and her husband will be pulling the wagons with jeeps.

Mark White of Holiday Hayrides said he'll be using tractors.

"We do have some of our old customers who they aren't going to go with us because of the lack of livestock, but hopefully the change will work out for everybody," said White.

Wycoff said as attendance increases, so does the challenge of navigating through the packed streets.

She said when all the wagons were booked, it wasn't unusual to see 21 mules working each night.

"On the weekends we can get tens of thousands of people," said Robin Dolezal, festival chair.

Wycoff said this makes it a safety issue not only for those attending the festival, but also for the animals.

"We are starting to feel that its unfair for our animals to be in stop and go traffic because the wagons are built to pull and use that momentum to keep the wagons rolling. If the momentum is stop and go, it begins to hurt their shoulders," said Wycoff.

Wycoff said she believes using jeeps instead is a good solution and hopes Winterhaven visitors and residents will give it a chance.


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