Off and running: Fair’s first donkey races cause quite a stir

Don Johnson (6) and Amber (8, last name not available) laughed as they tried to get aboard their steeds in the Donkey Races at the fair. In this particular race, Don and “Charlie Brown” were declared the winners with Amber and “Sure Shot” placing second. Photo by Bruce Strand

The Sherburne County Fair’s first ever Donkey Race was a huge success, judging by the crowd of over 100 people’s pure enjoyment of the chaos caused by falling riders, bucking donkeys, and innovative ways to cheat.  The riders were composed of police officers, fire fighters, U.S. Marines, people in 4H, Dominoes’ employees, and a few independents who all set about to mount their donkeys with encouraging names such as Nitro, Super Stupid, Killer, and Charlie Brown.  With five heats, 10 riders set out each time from the starting line with good intentions, but the donkeys had the upper hand and most riders quickly became acquainted with the ground in a variety of ways.

Prize-winning entries at the Sherburne County Fair, which runs though Sunday in Elk River.

A number of crafty riders realized the rules only stated you had to be on your donkey when you crossed the finish line to win, so they promptly won their heats by dragging their donkeys to the finish line and hopping on for the last few feet.  Besides winning for crossing the finish line, there were also awards for “Roughest Ride,” and “Dragging Up the Rear,” which the crowd voted on.

Marine Sergeant Stuart Voska won the final championship round, staying astride his donkey the entire time, which earned him a shiny trophy and a stirring applause.  Second place went to Seth Hansen.

“We’re racing for the fun of it,” Voska laughed with his three fellow marines, “and also because we were volun-told.”  The Marines were at the fair from Buffalo, working as recruiters.

The 10 donkeys were provided by Chippewa-based Dairyland Donkey Ball and judging by the energy of the crowd, they’ll be back next year to make donkey racing a tradition of the Sherburne County Fair.

The fair runs through Sunday. For more information, go to