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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, May 26, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesDonkey Derby Celebrates Festival with Laughter and Cheers

Donkey Derby Celebrates Festival with Laughter and Cheers

Ha Trinh of San Jose, Ca., careens around the track in Sunday's Donkey Derby.

In a donkey race, it’s not the riders competing against each other. It’s the riders competing against their own mounts.

And it’s more likely that the donkeys are going to get their way than the riders, who trade away their dignity and some sore muscles for the fun of trying to stay aboard the legendarily ornery steeds and steer them, to the delighted laughter of the crowd.

The Gentlemen of Jones sponsored their second annual Crucian Christmas Festival Donkey Derby, and for the couple of hundred people at the Paul E. Joseph Stadium in Frederiksted, it wasn’t about who won the races. It was more about who could stay on their donkey for any length of time, who would be able to get back on after being thrown, who would get thrown the most often, and just how long it would take anyone to navigate two laps around the small track.

The donkeys have a will of their own, or more accurately, a won’t. If the donkey doesn’t want to run around the track, there’s not a lot you can do about it, as Melinda Andrews of St. Croix discovered. Her mount braced his feet and refused to move, and there was nothing she could do about it.

Jonathon Rivera shows winning form in capturing the first race of the 2009 Donkey Derby.“That was easier and safer than I thought it would be,” she said after the race, in which she only managed to travel the 12 feet she traversed because someone grabbed the stubborn animal’s reins and dragged it that far.

James McDermott was vacationing on St. Croix, visiting the Caribbean from San Diego. For him, riding a donkey seemed like it would be fun.

“It’s harder than it looks,” he said. “They’re hard to start, and really hard to stop.”

Ha Trinh, also vacationing on St. Croix, had similar thoughts when he decided to take a shot.

“I’ve never done it before, so why not?” he asked.

“Why not” included getting thrown, chasing his ride down, and hanging on for dear life. But it was fun, he said, and he’ll return to his home in San Jose, Ca., with a great story to tell.

Laura Bailey may have had an extra advantage – she is a veterinarian who moved to the island six weeks ago to join the Island Animal practice. That deep connection to animal psychology helped her cruise to an easy victory in her race aboard Louisa, and she was easily out in front in the first heat of the cart races before her donkey suddenly seemed to lose interest and stopped, allowing Jeffrey Jones to cruise home in first place.

Trey McKenzie, 7, and his father Keith circumnavigate the course in the Donkey Derby.Seventeen-year-old Tiana Roussin, visiting from Vermont, had never ridden before, and after her race it was hard to say she had yet. Her donkey threw her once, took off the wrong way when she remounted, then planted its hooves in the ground as solidly as a tree until brothers Duncan and Morgan Cole, 13 and 11 years old respectively, got in front and behind and between them muscled the beast and young girl around the track once.

The audience laughed and cheered for the contestants, but even the laughter was in good fun. The men, women and children who mounted up did their best to maintain their seats and their dignity, or failing that, their lives and limbs, as the afternoon wore on. The question of who won and who lost was immaterial. The only question was who laughed, and that included just about everybody.

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