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The Flap Over 'Banana Derby': Some Don't See Monkey Jockeys' Appeal


A moment now to explore the line between cute and cruel.

SANDRA HART: I just really feel that chaining monkeys to the backs of dogs, dressing them up like little jockeys, just goes against the values, I believe, of many of the people who live here in Lake County.

SIEGEL: That's Sandra Hart. Lake County is in Illinois. The event that she's just described is called the banana derby. She's a county commissioner and she's never witnessed a banana derby herself, but it has been part of the Lake County Fair for the past six years, and Hart read about it after last year's event.

HART: And I thought, oh, my gosh I cannot believe that this is happening here, like, where I live.


But it was. She asked the fair organizers if they intended to have a banana derby again this year, and they said yes.

HART: I think it's, like, a relic from a bygone era to still have these kind of shows. It's not educational at all. It's really just for the amusement of people.

CORNISH: So Sandra Hart wants the banana derby canceled this year. She got directors of two local zoos to write letters of protest to the county fair organizers. She circulated a petition.

SIEGEL: The Lake County Fair declined comment. Instead, they referred us to a source close to the monkeys.

PHILIP DOLCE: I'm the monkeys' butler. I've been taking care of this group of monkeys for the last 12 years.

SIEGEL: That's Philip Dolce. Based in South Carolina, he defends the practice. It's not cruel, he says, it's adorable.

DOLCE: Some people in this country are fundamentally opposed to animals being used in entertainment. I believe that it's nothing improper about it. Animals have been used in entertainment since the beginning of time. People are amused by animals and have been interacting with them. There's nothing wrong with people interacting with animals. It's totally natural and humane.

CORNISH: The Lake County Fair starts July 29. The derby is still on the schedule. No betting is allowed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.