By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, MN - Believe it or not, Howard Lake has a running history of hosting donkey-assisted ball games.
Yes, that’s right. Ball games played with participants atop real, live donkeys.
Howard Lake has more than a 30-year history of hosting such games, and this Tuesday, May 5, donkey basketball will take over the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Middle School gymnasium. The last time donkey basketball was played at the school was in the mid-1990s.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and the first of two games will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Dairyland Donkey Ball advertises that it will be “A thrill a minute, and a spill a minute. It’s wilder than a rodeo, and funnier than a circus.”
A world famous 500-pound donkey named Buck Master that hasn’t been ridden yet will also be at the event.
The first game will involve HLWW varsity boys’ basketball team members against HLWW varsity girls’ basketball team members.
The second game will pit HLWW staff, including middle school principal Brad Sellner against “community celebrities” such as State Representative Dean Urdahl, celebrity Lions Club members, and past graduates, according to Lions Club member and event co-chair Cathy Rufer.
Each game consists of two eight-minute sets with four players per team per set.
The event is sponsored by the Howard Lake Lions Club, and all proceeds will go to HLWW in the form of the Howard Lake Lions Club scholarship program, as well as a planned monetary donation to update the middle school library, according to Rufer.
The donkeys and all the safety equipment will be provided by Dairyland Donkey Ball. More information about the company and a photo gallery can be viewed at www.dairylanddonkeyball.com.
During intermissions, free donkey rides will be given to children 12 and younger with a paid admission and parent present.
Tickets are on sale now and cost $6 in advance, or $8 at the door. Tickets are available at Citizens State Bank of Waverly, Howard Lake Drug, Joe’s Sport Shop, and the HLWW Middle School.
The donkeys will be fitted with protective wear on their hooves so they don’t scratch the gym floor. A volunteer clean-up crew consisting of Lions members dressed as clowns will be on hand to promptly dispose of any occasional waste.
Additionally, the Howard Lake Lions will clean and sanitize the gym floor after the event.
Members of the Wright County 4-H Clown Club will also be present to both participate in the game and to act as cheerleaders, Rufer explained.
“I’m so excited,” Rufer said. “I think it’s going to be really fun.”
“I don’t know how well it will be received,” Rufer continued, “but I do know that whomever doesn’t come will miss out on a really great time.”
Tickets will be taken at both front entrances to the school. The AVID group will be selling concessions, as well.
For more information, call HLWW Community Education at (320) 543-3600, or Rufer at (763) 218-7870.
A history of donkeyball
“Donkeyball” was an event that took place during the very first Good Neighbor Days celebration almost 32 years ago.
Back then, the game consisted of a team of businessmen versus a team of farmers riding donkeys as they tried to play baseball, according to long-time resident John Ringold.
The game took place at Memorial Park. A person would have to sit on a donkey while hitting the ball, then ride to first base on the donkey, and then switch donkeys at each base, according to Ringold.
“The donkeys were trained to do something else, like buck you off, so it made making it to the next base a real challenge,” he said.