November 26, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
31°F
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The key to donkey victory: Hang on tight

WELLINGTON — Thursday night, the donkeys ruled the grandstand.

In front of 500 spectators, 60 brave souls saddled up and attempted to ride donkeys. But the donkeys seemed to have a hidden agenda — bucking their riders.

STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
Erika Gress holds on to win a donkey race at the fair Thursday night.

When the trumpet sounded from the emcee on stage, the first 10 riders tried their hardest to not only catch the donkey as it was spooked by an oncoming train, but they also had to sit on it. But, the donkeys showed their riders no mercy and soon most of the riders found themselves sitting in dirt or being trampled and stepped on by the animal they were suppose to ride.

Each donkey rider was drawn at random and sponsored by a local organization or business. There were 60 registered riders with an additional 60 on a waiting list, said Joe Pojman, of Penfield.

But, it was all in good fun and for a good cause.

According to sheriff’s Deputy Bill Curtis, who rode in the donkey races last year, all the proceeds benefit the Junior Fair Board.

“It’s a nice way to give back to the community,” he said, adding that he took this year off from riding.

One of this year’s riders, Theresa Mechura, of Elyria, was sponsored by Wal-Mart in Oberlin. Mechura approached one of her managers at Wal-Mart, asking for a way to give back to the community.

Riding a donkey Thursday night at the fair was then presented to her, she said.

“I wanted to get involved in the community,” Mechura said before her turn to ride. “And, I told them I am riding in flip flops!”

Another rider was judicial candidate Jim Walther. He noted that this was his second year riding a donkey.

“It’s fun, and I have not fallen off yet,” he said. “Plus, if you win, you get bragging rights. And, it’s for a good cause because it helps the kids.”

One young spectator, Nathan Jackson, 8, of Wellington, inched to get a better view of the races. As the first riders took off, he could be heard laughing as he witnessed nearly half of the 10 riders fall from their steeds.

Nathan’s mother, Cindi Jackson, said she enjoys coming to the donkey races just for that reason — to see which riders can handle the donkeys.

From the looks of it Thursday night, the donkeys were winning.