Roberta Talley struggles to get Candy over the railroad ties. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Looking almost like a bucking bronco, Candy had a bit of an attitude about crossing the railroad ties.

Donkeys aren’t fond of climbing over things, trudging through water or going through dark spaces.

It didn’t matter. Candy, Hank and Poppy all made their ancestors proud and delighted the audience gathered to watch their reluctance as they went through the obstacle course.

Henry Schleiger shows Poppy there is no reason to fear water. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Hank won the race; this being his second year in a row to do so.

Donkeys racing is a bit of misnomer. While there was clearly a winner and a loser, speedy was not the word of the day.

Each of the three donkeys competing were saddled with 54 pounds to replicate what took place on April 12, 1859.

This was the date Ira Weatherbee discovered a 54-pound gold nugget in the Feather River Canyon near the town of Magalia.

The location of the competition (below the Magalia Community Church) is about the same place the assay office was located in 1959. April 29 was the 65th annual donkey derby, which was part of the larger multi-day Gold Nugget Days that has events in Paradise and Magalia.

An arena of obstacles for the annual Donkey Derby in Magalia. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The donkeys were tasked with going through an obstacle course that represented what that donkey in 1859 had to endure. It included walking up the hill from the river, through old tires like you see football players practicing on for agility, through a darkened structure that represented a tunnel of yesteryear, over railroad ties, up and over a stairway platform, into a pond of sorts and out the other side.

Hank practically had to be picked up to get into the water.

Poppy had no problem going through the water once his handler walked through it first. Poppy, while the slowest, was the most proficient on the course, which had a lot to do with being a five-time winner and competitor since 2001. This was likely the 23-year-old’s last derby, though.


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