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Donkey basketball attracts crowd for a cause

In spite of stubborn competition, most of it from their own mounts, Pine River firefighters emerged victorious in the four-way Dairyland Donkey Basketball Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 17, in the Pine River-Backus School gym.

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After a rough start, Zach McCarty from the Backus Fire Department team gives a pep talk to his steed. Photo by Travis Grimler

In spite of stubborn competition, most of it from their own mounts, Pine River firefighters emerged victorious in the four-way Dairyland Donkey Basketball Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 17, in the Pine River-Backus School gym.

The event is a fundraiser for the Backus Cornfest event.

The Pine River Fire Department was one of four teams to compete in the locally popular event. Other teams were the Backus Fire Department, a team from Hackensack and “The Misfits,” a last-minute replacement team that stepped in to replace the team from Walker. The Misfits included Backus residents, including Mayor Kurt Sawyer.

The first round pinned the Misfits against Hackensack, at which time the Misfits got the better of their opponents. Game two saw the Backus Fire Department leading against Pine River for the first half, but Pine River eventually closed the gap and took off with the lead and advanced to the final round.

Game three was half the length of the first two games and ended on a tense note by going into sudden death with a tie of 6 to 6. Pine River won the match with a two-pointer and was awarded a small trophy by Queen of Backus, Marilynn Lodin.

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Donkey basketball is a popular fundraiser. The madcap combination of stubborn donkeys and athleticism sold 170 advance tickets, but approximately 300 were in attendance. The event ultimately will guarantee funds for the 2015 Backus Cornfest. This is not the first time the Backus Cornfest Committee has used donkey basketball as a fundraiser.

“We did it for the first time probably about five years ago. We knew about it in the past but it was probably about 40 years ago that it was in this area where people did it. We found someone on the Internet that would bring their donkeys up this far,” said committee member and event organizer Rae Borst.


Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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