Monkeys will ride dogs on the diamond at LewisGale Stadium during and after the baseball games this Friday and Saturday nights, July 20 and 21 as the Salem Red Sox take on the Wilmington Blue Rocks. No, really!
“Team Ghost Riders” features white-faced capuchin monkeys and border collies, and while ring leader Tim Lepard originally created the show for a rodeo ring, they’ve performed at halftime shows for the Denver Broncos vs. the New England Patriots, the Orlando Magic, NASCAR, and many other coliseum-caliber events in just the past year. Lepard, who has been a rodeo clown for over 30 years, received many awards for his monkey business. His animals will even be featured in the movie “Gambit” starring Cameron Diaz and Colin Firth, which is due out in October of this year.
“It’s been like a huge tidal wave, and I’m sitting here riding this thing trying to stay with it,” Lepard said. Years ago, he originally tried to train his first capuchin monkey to ride his Shetland pony, but the pony wouldn’t have it, he said. One night he and the monkey were watching Johnny Carson and eating popcorn, when the monkey began to groom his border collie, then fell asleep atop the dog.
“And I thought ‘how cool does that look, that monkey, setting there, laying on that dog?’” Lepard said. “I took the dog and the monkey out there[ in the yard] the next day and had the dog out there walking around with the monkey on his back. I thought, well, if I can get some saddles made, it can even be better.”
He started out just having the monkey ride the dog around the ring and has since added more animals and a little more variety – the monkeys and border collies can now herd sheep into a pen together, which Salem Sox fans will get to see during the show. An article by ESPN about Lepard said that he uses pop tarts and time, love, and care to train the animals. The monkeys are not fastened to the dogs in any way, Lepard said. One of his monkeys, Dawn a.k.a. stage name Dakota, just gave birth a little over a month ago, so she will not be performing, but there will be two monkeys and three dogs at the Salem Sox.
For more about Lepard and Team Ghost Riders, visit their web site at www.teamghostriders.com . For videos – just google “monkeys riding dogs” or “Team Ghost Riders,” Lepard said – plenty of Youtube videos will pop up.