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HomeNewsArchivesSt. Croix's Version of a Chariot Race: Donkeys Pulling Carts

St. Croix's Version of a Chariot Race: Donkeys Pulling Carts

Dec. 28, 2008 — Some of the 25 donkeys in the races held Sunday in Frederiksted's Paul E. Joseph Stadium ran around the track as if they were trained for the Kentucky Derby, but others ran into barrels or tried to throw their riders any way they could.
Jeffry Jones, winner of the first cart race, rode like a gladiator, standing up in his cart for the last lap.
"Everybody needs to try it," Jones said. "It was my first time and it was a lot of fun."
The races, the first held in conjunction with the Crucian Christmas Festival, were designed to be a little more free-spirited than the races held during Emancipation Day the last few years, said Fernando Webster Jr., race announcer and Gentlemen of Jones member. The race had vendors selling food from tents on the field and and inflatable bounce houses for the kids.
"This is bigger than Emancipation Day races — it's more family friendly," Webster said. "We expect it to get bigger every year."
"Free-spirited" seemed the key term for some of the donkeys, which fought to keep from getting bridled or even led to the track. But the free-spirited were also the ones that brought the most laughter to the several hundred people in attendance. In the cart races they pulled their carts into barrels, and in the races with riders, they seemed to get a kick out of knocking their riders off before they reached the finish line. The winning donkeys had to be ridden in — not led.
In the first heat, a woman identified as "Chiquita" toppled off while rounding a bend and landed on her rear end with her feet flying up in the air.
"First you make sure the rider is all right, and then you laugh." said spectator Carole Wells, sitting ringside in a canvas chair.
"Ow — she's gonna feel that tomorrow," said Romeo Henderson, a Gentleman of Jones member, one of the sponsors of the race.
Henderson sported an outfit fit for a derby, including white tails, top hat and red accessories. A couple of women wore derby-style picture hats with huge flowers and bows. Couples enjoyed tailgate gatherings along the roadside.
Sue Lakos, extension agent for livestock at the University of the Virgin Islands, said the races are held for fun, laughs and family entertainment. The races started years ago as a way for people to relax and have fun.
"The donkeys were always an integral part in sugar production, carrying cane," Lakos said. "Instead they are pulling people today."
Those sitting trackside or on the field on blankets had to scramble for cover during a rain delay. The covered bleacher seating in the stadium was blocked off and in disrepair.
The race was going according to schedule until the rain delay, Webster said. Organizers hoped to get in 10 or 12 races by 8 p.m.
The Jingle Bell Cup was presented to first-place winners in the carts, relay team and individual races.
"I have seen many donkey races, but not with the carts," said resident Victor Clairmont. "It was very interesting to see the speed of the carts."
Race sponsors included Hovensa; the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation; Food Town; Cost U Less; Gentlemen of Jones; and Tutto Bene.
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