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updated: 7/27/2011 11:21 PM

Monkey jockeys ride into Lake County Fair

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  • Bert rides Scooby-Blue, left, as he races Bobo on Sasha during the Banana Derby with "America's Favorite Monkey Jockeys" Tuesday at the Lake County Fair in Grayslake. Bert won the race to the cheers of the crowd.

       Bert rides Scooby-Blue, left, as he races Bobo on Sasha during the Banana Derby with "America's Favorite Monkey Jockeys" Tuesday at the Lake County Fair in Grayslake. Bert won the race to the cheers of the crowd.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Ryan Donnelly, 13, of Grayslake, left and Olivia Coutre, 10, of Mundelein act as cheerleaders during the Banana Derby with "America's Favorite Monkey Jockeys" Tuesday at the Lake County Fair in Grayslake.

       Ryan Donnelly, 13, of Grayslake, left and Olivia Coutre, 10, of Mundelein act as cheerleaders during the Banana Derby with "America's Favorite Monkey Jockeys" Tuesday at the Lake County Fair in Grayslake.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Gilligan, a capuchin monkey, claps as he is introduced during the Banana Derby with "America's Favorite Monkey Jockeys" Tuesday at the Lake County Fair in Grayslake.

       Gilligan, a capuchin monkey, claps as he is introduced during the Banana Derby with "America's Favorite Monkey Jockeys" Tuesday at the Lake County Fair in Grayslake.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • "Top Banana" Philip Hendricks introduces the jockeys and their mounts during the Banana Derby with "America's Favorite Monkey Jockeys" Tuesday at the Lake County Fair in Grayslake.

       "Top Banana" Philip Hendricks introduces the jockeys and their mounts during the Banana Derby with "America's Favorite Monkey Jockeys" Tuesday at the Lake County Fair in Grayslake.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
By Samantha Bilharz

Horns blew, music blasted and the crowd cheered as the banana derby racing with "America's Favorite Monkey Jockeys" was under way at the Lake County Fair.

Featuring monkeys riding dogs, it is one of the new attractions at the 83rd annual Lake County Fair that started Tuesday at the fairgrounds in Grayslake. It runs through Sunday.

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The monkeys are dressed in brightly colored jockey outfits riding dogs around a track in a competition format.

Gilligan, Bobo and Bert where the three capuchin monkeys that competed for the title.

Philip Hendricks, who calls himself the "top banana," has been traveling across the United States for four years with his wife and daughter putting on the show.

"I like to watch the monkeys on the dogs. I enjoy seeing it. My show isn't educational, but it's definitely informative. I'm doing it because I believe in entertaining people with the monkeys," Hendricks said.

Sharing the banana derby with Lake County Fair visitors is something Hendricks feels passionate about and hits close to home for him. He grew up in Hinsdale.

"I have had a passion for dogs since my daughter's age. The draw between animal and human is amazing. I have loved dogs since I was young," said Hendricks, who added he rescued all four dogs in the show.

After the banana derby ended, a fair goer even shook Hendricks's hand to thank him for rescuing the dogs he uses in the show.

Hendricks received the monkeys from his wife's father, who was originally training them for use by people with disabilities.

That idea never panned out, so Hendricks started training the monkeys to ride dogs by giving them treats.

Fair organizers say the derby is part of the variety of shows, games, food, rides and many more traditional attractions at this year's fair, which they say got off to a good start Tuesday.

"There is an increase in attendance. We are feeling very good about the fair. We think it will be a great fair. We are expecting over 100,000 people at the course of the fair," said Sheri Vyfvinkel, business manager for the Lake County Fair Association.

The banana derby's first show Tuesday drew a large crowd that seemed intrigued by the concept.

"They were pretty funny. It isn't every day you see a dog with a monkey on its back," Lake Villa resident Sharon Schmeda said.

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