Audubon County deputy sheriff Shawn Young rides “Widowmaker” in an 8-second challenge to earn six points for the team Lights and Sirens.
Audubon County deputy sheriff

Shawn Young rides “Widowmaker” in an 8-second challenge to earn six points for the team Lights and Sirens.
March 27, 2014


The crowd cheered as the donkeys raced down the court, their riders attempting to steer their animals toward a basket.

The cheers quickly changed into a roar of laughter as one of the leading donkeys, Joseph, abruptly stopped, ducked its head and dumped its rider onto the court.

The Donkey Basketball Tournament held in the IKM-Manning High School gym Saturday night was a fundraising event for the Manning trails project. Deemed a success by City of Manning leaders, the event sold 399 tickets and raised more than $2,200.

Facing off in the first game were school faculty members Jenny Linde, Gene Ras, Brian Wall, Kari Ranniger, Jim Blankman and Luann Langel, and high school students Sam Wegner, Colton Hacker, Cody Eischeid, Andi Nulte, Natalie Nulte and Carley Irlmeier.

The game, played in two eight-minute halves, was close, with the score tied at 8 with one minute left. The faculty edged into the lead in the final 40 seconds, but the students came back to tie in the last 10 seconds, sending the round into sudden death. The faculty scored first, earning them the win.

In the second game, the Lights and Sirens team of firefighters, including Shawn Young, Jake Hannasch, John Lorenzen, Nate Fara, Casey Karsten, Tim Fern and Jeremy Travis, faced off against the players of Twin Transfer Inc., including Adam Brandt, Cody Willenborg, Evan Dammann, Nate Ranniger, Renee Hansen, Sarah Schlichte, Leroy Schlichte and Mary Grimm.

Willenborg, riding a donkey named Ralph, emerged as a donkey basketball star, making repeated baskets to lead Twin Transfers to its 20-12 win. However, the firemen won the costume contest, earning $92.50 of votes.

In the championship round, the faculty subbed in suspiciously young players to challenge the Twin Transfer powerhouse.

"Great coaching all comes to knowing when to make the best substitutions," Wall joked after the game.

But, the efforts were in vain - the faculty and high school student combo fell to Twin Transfer, 4-0.

The donkeys for Saturday's games - named Pedro, Mousey, Scoop, Gary, Ralph, George, Curly, Joseph and Cisco - were provided by Dairyland Donkey Ball, LLC.

The company's business cards proudly proclaim that owners CJ and Jessica Cordell of Chippewa Falls, Wis., are the third-generation in the business - and are "still being laughed at!"

Trainer Jake Schnur, who led Saturday's proceedings, joined the company in January. He estimates that he will have completed 90 shows by May, with a second truck in the company completing about the same. Most of the events are school or community fundraisers, he said.

The company operates in 18 states. So far, Schnur has traveled as far east as Illinois and as far south as Texas and New Mexico.

During the summer, the donkeys travel to different local fairs, or participate in Donkey Baseball events, he added.

Training begins when the animals are about 6 years old, said Schnur. Trainers observe an animal's natural tendencies - if one likes to buck, it is encouraged. But each truck also has some calmer donkeys for more timid participants, he said.

Raised around horses, Schnur said, he likes getting to know the animals, and he believes donkeys are smarter.

"They won't go across ground that is unstable," he said. "But, if one goes, the rest will follow."

They can also switch from rowdy to calm instinctively when the game ends and children's rides begin, he said.

The donkeys' hooves are covered with a rubber pad to prevent them from scuffing gymnasium floors.

The "pooper-scooper," elected via monetary votes in buckets located in downtown businesses, was Ron Reischl. He credited his childhood as a rural Iowa farm boy for his skill.

The City of Manning trail plan has $3.6 million in proposed trails.

The school trail, slated for completion next year, will run from Third Street, along East and 10th streets, to the front door of the IKM-Manning school. Its $378,000 cost will be covered in part by a $245,000 Safe Routes to School grant and a $57,000 Regional Transportation Alternatives grant. The Knowles Trust, West Central Iowa Healthcare Foundation dream lights campaign, private donations and the Trail to Nowhere fundraiser have contributed an additional $30,000 locally.

The City Park Connector Trail, slated for completion this year, will connect Manning City Park, the youth football and soccer fields and the community gardens before looping back to the youth baseball and softball diamond. This phase will cost about $137,000, part of which will be covered by a $75,000 Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant.

The next fundraising event for the trails will be the Trail Ride to Nowhere on April 26.