California Festivals


McKinleyville Pony Express Days

June 2-4, 2022

Pony Express Days Parade begins at 11 a.m.

Parade route: Starts on Murray Road, turns south on Central Avenue, and then exits at the Mill Creek Shopping Center parking lot via Anna Sparks Way (road between McDonalds and Rite Aid). Total distance from Murray/Central Avenue to parking lot is approximately 2.4 miles. During the parade all entrants should stop at the Judge's Stand located in front of Coast Central Credit Union.

Parade entrant categories: Best Float, Best Equestrian, Best Car, Best Walking Group, Outstanding Spirit Award (entry with most enthusiasm during the parade),  Best Parade Performance (entry that is the most entertaining for the crowd)

Pony Express Days Chili Cookoff

June 2, 2022, 5-7 p.m.

Pierson Park, McKinleyville, CA

The festivities will be set-up at Pierson Park outside the backdoors of Azalea Hall. Get out your pots, pans, chili peppers and secret ingredients and make sure you can create 15 gallons of chili for this daring competition. It's chili cookin' time at an outdoor venue, with all cooking occurring on-site! The public can purchase tasting tickets and enjoy the food 5-7 p.m. in Pierson Park.

Awards: Best Local Business, Chili Best Amateur Chili, Best Team Spirit

Pony Express Days Festival 

June 4, 2022, 12-4 p.m.

Pierson Park
McKinleyville, California |


Food Booths will be located near the gazebo in Pierson Park. The Kid's Zone will be located on the south side of Azalea Hall. All other booths will be face-to-face and located on the northeast corner of Pierson Park.  The fantastic activities and events tentatively planned for 2022 include: Outdoor Chili Cook-Off, Pancake Breakfast, Parade & Festival! 

While the Chamber describes the festival as: "Pony Express Days is a town celebration that was established in 1968 and is held the first weekend in June. It is a four day community event where you can enjoy a chili cook-off, barn dance, gymkhana, a parade down Central Avenue and big Pony Express Family Fun Festival in Pierson Park. There is something for all ages." In 2022 it appears it may be downsized a bit.

McKinleyville Pony Express Kickoff Mixer takes place May 26, 2022. Contact the Chamber of Commerce for details.


Past event information:

McKinley Pony Express Days

Wednesday evening Firefighter's Mini-Muster in the Upper Parking Lot of Pierson Park. Bring blankets and lawn chairs -- cheer on local fire fighters as they compete in Bucket Brigade and Hose Relay. McKinleyville Kiwanis will be on site with Pulled Pork Sandwiches along with other goodies for sale.

Cook-off at McKinleyville Shopping Center at 1500 City Center Road.
This is an outdoor Chili Cook-off! McKinleyville Shopping Center at 1500 City Center Road is where the action takes place -- all chili will be cooked on-site, beginning at noon and the cook-off will start at 5:30 pm.

Indoor Pony Express Dance Barn dance at Six Rivers Brewery with live music by Lone Star Junction.


  • Pancake Breakfast at Azalea Hall from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
  • Pony Express Days Parade 11 a.m. Route: Central Avenue from Murray Road to School Road.  With more than 75 floats and entries the parade involves nearly everyone in the community and surrounding areas. Prizes are awarded for best float, best equestrian, best band, best youth group and best senior group.
  • Pony Express Days Festival 12-4 p.m. at Pierson Park. Band, Taxi, performs. The fest includes vendors selling foods and products such as arts and crafts.
  • Pony Express Days MRA Gymkhana Buckle Series at McKinleyville Rodeo Grounds at the Kjer Road arena.
  • Pony Express Days MRA Gymkhana Buckle Series at McKinleyville Rodeo Grounds at the Kjer Road arena.

Saturday & Sunday Gymkhana at the McKinleyville Rodeo Grounds at the Kjer Road arena. Unlike the rest of the events sponsored by the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce this competition is produced by McKinleyville Rodeo Association. One of the most popular events is the barrel race contest.

McKinleyville's Pony Express Festivals includes a Cook-off, Fireman's Muster (fireman games), Pony Express Dance and Saturday's Parade down Central Avenue that rolls right into the big Family Festival in Pierson Park with a horse shoe tournament. On Saturday & Sunday there's a Gymkhana, competitive games on horseback.

Events are not guaranteed. It is your responsibility to confirm before going.

Pony Express Days Pony Express Days is a town celebration that was established in 1968. Though McKinleyville is some miles northwest of the final delivery point of the historic Pony Express, it is one of many popularly-themed festivals throughout the U.S. baring the name of this brief moment in history that gained incredible fame.

Pony Express placed ads such as: "Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred."

The 1,900 mile rout between St. Joseph, MO, and Sacramento, CA, took approx. 10 days to complete with more than 150 relay stations along the route roughly following the Oregon and California trails. Each rider would go approx. 75 to 100 miles, changing horses at stations every 10-25 miles at a relay station. Riders could not weigh over 125 pounds. One of the most famous riders was Buffalo Bill (William Cody) who was a teenager age 15 when he took on the assignment.

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