Lake County Fair Keeping Quirky Banana Derby, Where Monkeys Ride On Backs Of Dogs

CHICAGO (CBS) — Despite pleas from Brookfield Zoo and members of the Lake County Board to do away with an event featuring monkeys riding dogs, the Lake County Fair plans to keep the popular Banana Derby race.

The traveling show is a feature of many county fairs across the country, using Capuchin monkeys dressed as jockeys, racing around on the backs of dogs.

The Banana Derby has been a staple at the Lake County Fair, but county board member Sandra Hart and others on the board want it gone. She and a majority of the board signed a letter asking the fair to cancel the derby.

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

Banana Derby promoter Philip Dolci said families love the event, especially one trick in which kids give a monkey a dollar, and get a handshake.

Dolci said the animals are treated well.

“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.”

Brookfield Zoo also has called for an end to the Banana Derby, but Dolci referenced the recent deaths of 54 stingrays at the zoo.

“They should be paying attention to that, instead of my business,” he said.

The Lake County Fair said it has no plans to cancel the act.

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