HOPE — Grace Hasler is used to riding horses.
Donkeys are another matter.
The Hauser senior and award-winning rodeo competitor mainly uses donkeys to rope. But Saturday night, she was one of about 35 Hauser teachers, staff, students, alumni and local celebrities on four teams to play donkey basketball at Hauser High School.
“Donkeys are definitely a lot more stubborn,” Hasler said. “But there’s a lot of horses down at grandpa’s barn that have been worse than the donkeys were. It was a lot of fun.”
Hasler made a couple baskets in each of two games for the winning team, which consisted of Hauser staff and FFA members. Her team beat a group of Hauser alumni in the finals.
Some of the donkeys were more cooperative than others. Jets baseball coach Nate Long found that out early in the first game of the night when he tried to ride Hopalong.
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“Everytime I threw my leg up, he wanted to hop along,” Long said. “So his name kind of fit him.”
Hauser was hosting donkey basketball for the first time since November 2014. Buckeye Donkey Ball out of Orient, Ohio, has three units which put on 350 to 400 shows in seven months each year.
Buckeye Donkey Ball unit manager Rickie Cutlip, who officiated the games and sometimes prodded the animals along, said the operation has 110 donkeys. Ten of them traveled to Hope for Saturday’s event.
“We just have a good time,” Cutlip said. “They invite us over here, and this is always successful.”
The event was the final one organized by retiring Hauser booster club president Shawn Thayer. Thayer, 54, who grew up in Hope, thinks the community has put on donkey basketball 12 to 14 times over the years, all but the last two of which took place at the Hope Community Center.
Thayer said the booster club was hoping to make about $3,000 from Saturday’s event, which drew about 1,500 fans. Children under 12 had a chance to ride the donkeys between games.
“It went so well (in 2014), I thought we’d just do it one more time,” Thayer said. “It’s pretty easy. We just show up and do a little bit of work, and the donkeys and the trainer do all the work. The kids just love it.”