Kim Brockett Helps Educate, Entertain

Raised on a New York farm, Kim Brockett is a CPA who found the perfect combination of farm life and career with her employer, Bishop's Orchards. Then, after Kim and her family opened their Guilford farm Tripledale to two mammoth donkeys in 2008, she also realized Bishop's would be the perfect home for an annual Donkey and Mule Show.

"I'd been attending shows and I thought it would be such a great farm event to combine with Bishop's Apple Blossom wagon rides," says Kim, who also serves on Guilford's Board of Finance.

In 2009, Kim helped organize Bishop's first show. Now, Saturday, May 7 marks the third annual Bishop's Orchards Donkey and Mule Show. The free event encourages guests to pull up a hay bale to picnic or watch the action, stroll the grounds to visit with a multitude of breeds, and enjoy free wagon rides through orchards bursting with apple blossoms.

Bishop's fall "Pumpkin Patch" field will be transformed into an open arena in which breeds will compete in entertaining events, as famed Connecticut storyteller Carolyn Sterns announces.

"She'll also be telling stories that include myths versus truths about these animals," says Kim.

Events include coon jumping, driving classes, riding classes, an obstacle course, a costume class, games, and a new class this year for rescued animals.

"We added that class this year because we want to highlight adopting rescues," says Kim, who rescued two spice-colored, small standard donkeys, Cinnamon and Nutmeg. "I just adopted them. They were rescued from a kill pen in New Jersey."

Kim first became interested in owning and showing donkeys when she, her husband Mike Cappelli, and their son Drew were looking to bring horses to their farm's beautiful triple pasture.

"I picked up a children's book at the library on disappearing breeds of domestic animals and mammoth donkeys were in there. I'd never heard of them," she says.

Calmer than horses, the donkeys are excellent riding animals who eat less than horses, live longer (up to age 50), and don't need shoes, Kim found. Donkeys are also "extremely smart," she says.

"They don't have a horse's flight-or-fight instinct. A donkey will stop for danger-they're checking to see if it's safe, not being stubborn. When you lead a donkey through an obstacle course, it shows [the donkey's] trust in their handler," she says.

Kim's definitely built trust between herself and the family's mammoth donkeys, Sandy and Sage. Calm with strangers, they'll walk crowded parade routes and willingly follow Kim through the "ring of fire" (a hoop dangling colorful banners) and other obstacle course elements.

"I can dress them head to foot for the costume classes," she adds. "Sage wears a DOT sign with blinking lights! Sandy's a fire truck with hoses and radios."

Kim's even brought the costumed couple to the Green during the annual Halloween Parade. At the Guilford Fair, they're installed in the Barn Yard tent. Kim says it's an opportunity for her family to share an "educational exhibit" with its neighbors.

"We'll stand there three days straight to talk to people. That's the part we really like, educating and dispelling the myths," she says.

As visitors to Bishop's will find on May 7, there are many different breeds of donkeys, including mini, standard, and mammoth. Because mammoths were once only valued for breeding with horses to create mules, the breed suffered as the need for mules declined. Now, there are only about 3,000 mammoth donkeys left in the world, notes Kim.

Sage, 8, and Sandy, 13, were raised by renowned mammoth donkey breeder, trainer, and exhibitor Bill Garrett of Stilwell, Oklahoma. This year, Kim's excited to have Bill here to judge Bishop's Donkey and Mule Show. Kim's kept in touch with Bill since first meeting him on his ranch during a trip with Drew in 2008.

"It's definitely exciting and we know it's drawing more exhibitors who want to meet him," says Kim.

Show-goers are always encouraged to visit exhibitors and their animals, she adds.

"People can go right up to the trailers and pet the animals or talk to the owners. Everyone likes to go and have fun and it's all about educating the public," she says. "It's all about introducing the public to these unique animals."

Bishop's Orchards third annual Donkey and Mule Show is Saturday, May 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Little Red Barn field, 1355 Boston Post Road. Guilford. Admission is free; free apple blossom viewing wagon rides are available. In addition, kids' events will be offered, including face painting, moon bounce, pony rides, and kids crafts. For more information, call 203-453-2338 or visit www.bishopsorchards.com.

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