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100-mule team to hit SCV today

'Performance parade' marks 100th anniversary of Los Angeles Aqueduct

Posted: November 3, 2013 9:34 p.m.
Updated: November 3, 2013 9:34 p.m.

The 100 mules get some rest - split up into several dozen a pen - at a ranch in Neenach on Sunday, ahead of their truck trip to Whitney Canyon Park. Photo by Ryan Fonseca.

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It’s a work of performance art. It’s a statement about Los Angeles’s reliance on imported water. 

It’s a “performance parade” of 100 mules that is traveling the 240-mile route of the Los Angeles Aqueduct to mark the 100-year anniversary of the waterway’s opening, bringing Los Angeles life-sustaining water from the Owens Valley.

And it will arrive in the Santa Clarita Valley today aboard trucks for viewing by residents in the afternoon.

“100 Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct” is a collaboration of Annenberg family scion-artist Lauren Bon and Lone Pine film historian Christopher Langley. The idea is to demonstrate the link between Los Angeles and the Owens Valley and to acknowledge the role of mules in building the structure that made that link possible.

Bon and her Metabolic Studios have turned artistic interests to the Owens Valley for years, linking the two together on other projects that ranged from a garden in Lone Pine to a cornfield in Los Angeles.

Her goal is to acknowledge Los Angeles’ debt to the Owens Valley, and her medium is performance art.

On Sunday, the team spent the day resting in Neenach — a small community on the northeastern outskirts of the Antelope Valley.

The 100 mules — and one donkey — were split up into several pens where some stood, others paced and a few spread out on the ground for a nap.

Local residents came out to snap photos and talk with volunteers about what they were doing in their town of about 800 people.

“This is a once in a lifetime thing to have something like this come through the area. There’s not a lot out here,” said resident Nancy Sebert. “Having the mules come through is absolutely amazing.”

The mules will be transported by trailer today from the camp in Neenach to Whitney Canyon Park.

Michele Urton from Metabolic Studios said the recent Powerhouse Fire damaged the route, so the group couldn’t get the permits required to traverse the land.

“With the exception of tomorrow, they’re walking the entire distance,” she said

The equines will overnight at Whitney Canyon, where residents can visit them from arrival time until about 5 p.m., organizers said.

On Tuesday the mules will head through the Newhall Pass to the cascades — the waterfall in Sylmar where Owens Valley water spills into the San Fernando Valley via the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Tuesday is the 100th anniversary of the aqueduct’s opening. A celebration and re-enactment of the cascades opening is planned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Although the Los Angeles Aqueduct passes through the Santa Clarita Valley — as will the mules following its course — the SCV does not receive water from the Owens Valley.

Water here is a combination of local groundwater and State Water Project water, which arrives through a separate water system from farther north in California.

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