SIKESTON -- Preparations for a donkey basketball game featuring local all-star players are under way.
Set for 7 p.m. Jan. 14 at the gymnasium in Morehouse, the variation on the traditional sport will pit Sikeston High School teachers against Junior High School teachers and Sikeston High School band students against choir students. Also slated to play are Missouri Delta Medical Center hospital administrators versus the doctors.
"It's whole-hearted family entertainment," said Kim Whitehead, assistant band director for Sikeston High School.
Whitehead initially came up with the idea to organize the event in Sikeston.
"The high school I went to -- Eureka High School -- used to do a donkey game for fun, and I used to watch my teachers play and it was fun," Whitehead said. "We were trying to look for something fun to do and unique -- something someone else hasn't done in a while."
Whitehead said there are few U.S. companies that specifically put on donkey games at venues. She searched online and found a company in Ohio that would travel to the area and secured a date, Whitehead said.
"They bring the donkeys, the referee, and some of our students will be the sanitation crew," Whitehead said.
Just like the sport, there will be five players (sitting on donkeys) on the court. Each team is asked to have a minimum of six players
"You have to be on your donkey if you're trying to shoot the ball, block and to pass. If you need to, you can jump off the donkey and lead him down the court.
The actual game time is much shorter than regular basketball games, Whitehead said, adding each game will take about 30 minutes.
With the game in line, the next step was establishing the teams.
In addition to the donkey basketball games, high school band members will offer concessions and conduct a bake sale and silent auction during the festivities.
Proceeds will benefit Sikeston High School band students, who will march May 3 in the Pegasus Parade during the Kentucky Derby Festival. "Playing for a crowd of nearly 275,000 people is something these students have never done before, but will be a great experience for them," said Sikeston High School Band Director Darren Steelman.
The Pegasus Parade is the oldest Kentucky Derby Festival event, typically held the Thursday before the Kentucky Derby. The Pegasus Parade features colorful floats, marching bands, giant inflatable cartoon characters, equestrians and celebrities.
The expense of trip -- $289 per student -- is solely on the students.
All of the 140 high school band students were given the option to attend, Whitehead said.
"It's an exciting opportunity just to be able to do something special like that and we've been wanting to take a special trip every couple of years," Whitehead said. "The kids work so hard and they deserve to have new experiences they normally wouldn't be able to do."
Steelman, who played in the Rose Bowl Parade when he was in college, agreed.
"The majority of the kids aren't going to experience something like this ever again," said Steelman. "Most of the kids don't pick up an instrument after they graduate high school so they don't get the opportunity again."
Tickets are $6 in advance from participating band members or at Collins Music in Downtown Sikeston. Tickets can also be purchased for $8 at the door. Children 4 and under are free. Free donkey rides will be offered at intermission to all children under 12 who are accompanied by a paying adult.
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