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franklin county times

Monkey business: Races bring smiles to fair-goers

By Staff
THE WINNER Slick Willy, left, rides his donkey past Too Fat Pat on the final lap of the Banana Derby at the Queen City State Fair on Wednesday. Willy, a stump tail macaque, races ponies and donkeys against two other monkeys at the fair today, Friday and Saturday. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star.
By Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star
Oct. 4, 2001
Twelve-year-old Amber Joswig shook her pompom and laughed uncontrollably as she cheered on Slick Willy in the Banana Derby pony race Wednesday afternoon.
It worked. Slick Willy came from behind in the final lap at the Queen City State Fair, defeating Too Fat Pat and Suzy Sittin' Tight and sending almost 100 spectators into convulsive laughter.
Most had never seen a race in which monkeys, stump tail macaques to be exact, donned silk jockey uniforms and rode atop donkeys and ponies as they ran around a 110-foot track.
The 25-pound monkeys are strapped onto the ponies and donkeys and released from the starting gate. The finish line is an 8-foot high arch with a bundle of fake bananas hanging from the top.
Monkeys race daily
The Banana Derby, on the main floor of the Lauderdale County Agri-Center, takes place three times a day today and Friday and four times Saturday at the fair. Admission is covered by the fair's entrance fee.
Amber was one of three people selected from the large crowd to be a cheerleader for one of the jockeys. Amber was picked to cheer for Slick Willy, who wins most of the races.
Willy usually taunts the other jockeys after he takes the lead. He turns around on his saddle, shakes his head fiercely and appears to be spatting off at Too Fat Pat and Suzy Sittin' Tight.
Act travels the world
The Rivers have been on the road with their monkey act for 14 years, performing at fairs around the world.
The family's company is called "Animals in Motion" and they have a farm full of hundreds of different animals at their Citra, Fla., home.
Rivers said their company has other animal acts, including mule diving. The Rivers also have trained animals for use in major motion picture productions.
In fact, the family trained all of the hoofed animals in Jim Carrey's hit film "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective."
Fredie Carmichael is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3228, or e-mail him at fcarmichael@themeridianstar.com.

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