by Steve Peterson
Donkeys were brought to Akron-Westfield Community School’s gym March 1 as part of a 10-day tour of the Midwest by Dairyland Donkey Ball LLC of Chippewa Falls, Wis.
When all the dust, er donkey droppings, settled Friday and the good sized crowd that filled both sides of the A-W Community School’s gym was departing, Akron-Westfield FFA Officers Dana Hedlund, Adam Kroksh, Emily Meerdink. Kellie O’Byrne, Kayla Tindall and Chet Willer emerged as the night’s champions.
They beat the FFA members’ team of Ryan Foley, Kali Kriener, Cole Oltmanns, Desi Oltmanns, Sydney Pridie, Trevor Richter and Joe Welch for the championship. A faculty team also competed as well as a students’ team.
“The donkeys are seven years old, which is adolescent to teenage years for them. Some won’t be ridden while others are more athletic,” said Event Coordinator C.J. Cordell of Dairyland Donkey Ball, who explained baseball was actually the first sport where donkeys entertained crowds. Then when gymnasiums became more popular, basketball took over.
Dairyland Donkey Ball’s history dates back to the Great Depression when Cordell’s wife’s family did some work for a farmer who paid them back in donkeys. The company is now on its third generation and a fourth generation, C.J. III, will take over in the future.
Students found riding the donkeys was harder than it looked.
“I thought I was up for it,” said Cole Oltmanns of riding one of the more challenging donkeys. “The hardest thing was getting up on it. He did not want to be ridden.”
“Trying to get on the donkey,” agreed FFA Member Adam Kroksh, who admitted he “hurt my bumpers” when he fell once.
“He kept bucking me.”
Other participants said it was fun but getting up on the donkey was the hard part.
Or, as Beverly Hills banker Melvin Drysdale once said on The Beverly Hillbillies, “No wonder they call you a jackass.”
A-W Grades TK-6 Principal Cathy Bobier did the yeomen’s work as clean-up crew as she was called on several times.
Youngsters, age 12 and under, with the help of FFA members and A-W staff, had a chance to ride the donkeys between the games.
Cordell kept the night a fast-paced one with some humor as he emceed the games plus a halftime arm-wrestling contest. One interesting one was between A-W Head Football Coach Eric Walkingstick and senior Chet Willer — it was won by “Stick.” A ladies’ version featured FFA Member Emily Meerdink and A-W teacher Tracy Frerichs.
Entertainment also included the A-W Jazz Choir singing twice.
The donkeys were waiting for their big moment outside the school building as a FFA tailgate supper took place in the school’s McDonald’s area.
One wonders what Jane and Joe Donkey must have been thinking about their Friday night.
Although this was an A-W FFA fundraiser, the New Akron Care Center Project will receive a portion of the proceeds.
This was the second event for the FFA members this week. A rescheduled National FFA Week alumni and community supporters luncheon was held Feb. 26. It was catered by Subway restaurants.
Additional donkey terms/facts: a male donkey or ass is called a jack, a female is a jenny or jennet; a young donkey is a foal; and jack donkeys are often used to produce mules.