#225. I thought it was a thing from the 70’s…

Posted on | The Agurban

I thought it was a thing from the 70’s…

We look in lots of places for our small town stories, not the least of which is the New York Times. Surprisingly, we get several stories a year from the Times. While reading the April 18th edition, I came across an article titled “Donkey Ball Stubbornly Holds On Despite Criticism”. That’s a blast from the past! Until recently, I hadn’t heard much about Donkey Ball or given it much thought.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Donkey Ball, it is a “quirky twist on basketball in which humans ride donkeys. Teams of four players must be astride their mounts in order to shoot, pass or play defense. Dribbling is nonexistent. Participants wear elbow pads and helmets, and they usually attend a briefing on the rules and treatment of the animals.”

Donkeys, by nature, are stubborn. They play for carrots and really don’t care which team wins or looses. Some donkeys are trained to buck or to duck their heads, sending the players sliding to the floor. It really is quite comical.

Especially if you know the team members. That’s the part that really caught my eye. Donkey Ball isn’t played in big cities or metropolitan areas. It is played in small towns. As one owner of a Donkey Ball company commented, “The game is most popular in rural communities, where the event is often a sellout. Half the fun is watching the school principal or the mayor fall off a donkey. If you play in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul, they just don’t know each other.”

A couple of Agracel employees recently attended Donkey Ball games at their respective high schools. Each event was held as a fundraiser for a school organization. Participants included high school teachers, coaches, students, administration, and local public servants such as a police officer and volunteer firemen. One of the schools was able to raise $3,000 for their Student Council. And not one donkey was hurt.

Donkey ball has been around since at least the 1930’s, kept alive by fewer than a dozen family businesses today. Hopefully animal-welfare groups and lawsuit happy lawyers will not put these family businesses out of business.

If there is a Donkey Ball game in your area, you should plan to attend. Not only will you be helping out a fundraising effort for a local group, you will have a load of fun!

Special Announcement

You may recall back in March 2009, we featured an Agurban on Small Towns, Big Ideas. Will Lambe, associate director of the Community and Economic Development Program at the University of North Carolina’s School of Government, conducted a yearlong study to identify and document stories of small towns that are surviving and thriving. (You will find our Agurban here.)

We just received word that Eric Canada of Blane, Canada, Ltd., a nationally recognized authority on economic development marketing and business retention, will be moderating an Economic Development Webinar featuring Will Lambe.

By participating in the webinar, you will learn a framework for understanding economic development in small towns, local ingredients for success and innovation in small town development, real examples of how some small towns are moving the needle, and innovative assets for modern small town development.

At the end of the webinar you will have the opportunity to ask questions of Mr. Lambe.

For more details, visit here.