Emma the Mule rides again
Emmaus’ signature mule, Emma, has been restored to her former glory thanks to a collaborative restoration project by local artists, businesses and the Emmaus Main Street Partners board.
A beloved community fixture since 2003, Emma’s feet and base were damaged by a fall in December 2016. Additionally, due to Emma’s age, her signature patchwork paint job had begun to fade. The fiberglass mule was temporarily housed inside the Emmaus Run Inn due to her damage.
The Emmaus Main Street Partners board, which oversees Emma’s well-being, decided Emma not only needed the damage fixed, but also given a full restoration.
“Emma’s a piece of art, so we wanted to make sure she’s beautiful,” Emmaus Main Street manager Meghan Reed said.
Several local Emmaus businesses agreed to sponsor Emma’s recovery.
Jaboa Enterprises and Vinyl Press worked to make a new, sturdier metal bracket and base for Emma at no cost to the EMSP. It took 15 man-hours at Jaboa to make the repairs.
From Jaboa, Emma was transported to the house of Lauren Kuhn, vice president of the Emmaus Arts Commission, to be repainted. Buss Paint & Wallpaper provided outdoor paint with varnish mixed in to restore Emma’s triangular paint job and to prevent it from fading over time.
“I actually had to wash her first, which was very bizarre – washing a mule in my driveway with a hose,” Kuhn said. “The dirt on her was unreal.”
Emma was completely sanded down and repainted by Kuhn and other volunteers, painting triangle by triangle, over the course of a week.
Calligraphy artist Lauren Beck from the Lehigh Valley Arts Council worked to restore the original names painted on Emma’s triangles. Many of the original names had been scratched off or had faded over time. By using pre-restoration photographs, Beck restored the original names and began painting new names on Emma at the Emmaus Heritage Festival – Emma’s homecoming – last September. Beck will paint new names on Emma as part of EAC’s SnowBlast Winter Arts Festival Feb. 2.
“I didn’t realize she had such a following,” Michael Irwin, vice chair of EMSP and co-owner of Jaboa Enterprises and Vinyl Press said, as he recalled the enthusiastic response Emma received during her appearance at last year’s Emmaus Halloween Parade.
Emma was one of 175 mules produced as part of Miles of Mules, a public art project spanning five counties throughout the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor to honor the history of the counties. Mules provided the power to move coal mined in these counties by the canal system.