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Illinois fair: Dog-riding monkey races will go on despite protests

By Ben Hooper
Illinois fair: Dog-riding monkey races will go on despite protests

GRAYSLAKE, Ill., July 16 (UPI) -- Organizers of an Illinois county fair said the yearly Banana Derby -- a race involving monkeys riding on the backs of dogs -- will go on despite objections.

Sandra Hart, a member of the Lake County Board, authored a letter signed by the majority of the board's members calling on the fair to cancel the derby, which is a traveling show that performs at multiple fairs around the country and has been part of the Lake County event for several years.

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"I think it diminishes the value of these animals," she told WBBM-FM. "When you dress them up in little jockey outfits, and have them running around a ring like that, it kind of exploits those animals."

The Brookfield Zoo has also called on the fair to stop hosting the derby.

Philip Dolci, promoter of the Banana Derby, said the three monkeys in the attraction -- only two of which race -- are treated well. He said the monkeys enjoy performing, especially a trick in which one of the primates gives out handshakes in exchange for a dollar bill.

"His favorite trick is taking dollar bills. I mean, how would you abuse that animal, you know what I'm saying? We cook for them, we clean for them, my mom and wife make clothes for them," he said. "If I was doing something wrong, the people of Lake County wouldn't have brought their kids back for six years to see us. They say, 'We see the monkey every year.' They know the monkey's name. It's insanity, really."

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Dolci told WGN Radio the dogs in the attraction are all rescue dogs. He said he builds a bond between the monkeys and the dogs by having the primates help feed the canines.

The Lake County Fair begins July 29, with the Banana Derby races planned for all five days of the fair.

The county fair in nearby DuPage County earlier announced it would be hosting the Banana Derby for the first time this year.

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