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Giddy up - 33rd Theydon Bois Donkey Derby

Spirits were soaring almost as high as the temperature, at the 33rd Theydon Bois Donkey Derby that took place recently amid the heat wave, and as the event's main sponsors, Butler & Stag were on hand to ensure the proceedings got even hotter

After a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus, the return of the famous Theydon Bois Donkey Derby was much anticipated, and while everyone was hoping for good weather, the day itself delivered more than anyone had bargained for, with the temperature close to 30C, making it hotter than Hawaii!

Giddy up

Armed with sun hats, sunscreen and plenty of water, visitors arrived in their thousands, however, keen to soak up the wonderful atmosphere that always accompanies this popular annual event.

As the crowds gathered on the village green, there could be little doubt that Butler & Stag was putting its full support behind the day, not only as the event's main sponsor (for a third time, no less), but also as host of a penalty shoot out competition. Indeed, before too long, queues were forming of those eager to get the better of the goalie and while the ball did see the back of the net on several occasions, it's fair to say that Butler & Stag put up a pretty decent performance, albeit a some what sweaty one!

For those looking for more sedate pleasures, there were plenty of stalls to browse, ice creams to be eaten and a traditional funfair, complete with Ferris wheel, to be enjoyed.

But of course the main attraction was the donkey derby itself, which never disappoints. This year, with the weather being so fierce, the welfare of the donkeys was upmost on people's minds. The animals were therefore kept in a specially shaded pen, where they were regularly hydrated. They were also rotated over the six races that took place.

In time-honoured tradition, the Jockeys themselves were local children, aged ten to 15, all weighing under 8 stone and with previous riding skills, although some more rudimentary than others. As is always the case, there were a fair few thrills and spills as they galloped to the finish line, along with several bruised bottoms and equally bruised egos. Meanwhile, the cheers of race goers keen to win their flutter could be heard across the green.

As the organisers readily acknowledge, it's all good, old-fashioned fun, which is undoubtedly the event's charm. In fact, the donkey derby is based on the races that took place at Birch Hall more than a hundred years ago and was reinstated by local Scout leader Peter Simmance as a way to raise the necessary money to refurbish the Scout hut.

Since its inception back in 1987, the fundraiser has not only grown to become a much-loved local fixture, it's also increased the beneficiaries of the money it brings in to include Guide groups in the area as well as several other village charities.

Suffice to say, Butler & Stag couldn't have been prouder to be involved, having contributed the lump sum of £2k to help the event organisers and associated charities, while raising more than £550 on the day through the penalty shoot out. Now that's what we call a result!

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