By Moses Leos III and Paige Lambert
Having worked in the field of event planning for several years, Alisha Randig understands fulfilling odd requests often comes with the territory.
But what started out as a request from clients to have donkeys at an event led Randig to become the first to conceptualize the idea of “beer burros.”
Randig, who works with Hill Country Events in Dripping Springs, said the concept of having the donkeys interact with guests at events has taken off, especially in Dripping Springs, which is the wedding capital of Texas.
“I think it’s allowed it to take off a lot faster than I would have thought,” Randig said.
Randig’s path toward the beer burro idea began when she was approached by the Salt Lick at the beginning of 2015.
At the time, the venue had clients who wanted to have donkeys serve guests at their event. The venue approached Randig about the venture because her family has a ranch in the Wimberley area and could house the animals.
After talking with her husband, Travis, who is a roper and is familiar with livestock, Randig immediately jumped on the idea. She quickly found two donkeys, Annie Oakley and John Wayne, and purchased them from Craigslist.
Randig then turned to Dennis Moore, curator of the Buggy Barn Museum in Blanco, who helped her train the animals. She said Moore got the animals accustomed to having a packsaddle on their back.
While the process can vary on the personality of the donkey, Randig said it took two months for Annie Oakley and John Wayne to be trained.
During that time, Randig invested in packsaddles for her animals, which she purchases from Colorado. The packsaddles, she said, cost roughly $200 to $300 and allow for guests to collect items, such as favors, food or alcohol.
Those who work as bartenders also go through donkey handling training, Randig said, so they could serve alcohol while guiding the donkeys.
“Each of our donkey handlers are trained and they are certified handlers,” Randig said.
It didn’t take long for Randig to find success with the Beer Burro idea. She said the first event was “huge” and “everyone loved it.”
“Everyone from grandparents to children took photos (with the donkeys),” Randig said. “As it progressed, we knew we were on to something. We saw on Snapchat themselves with the donkeys. That’s when I knew it caught on.”
Delaney Collins, who works with Ears with Beers in Dripping Springs, has also seen the idea of beer burros take off.
Collins trained a pair of miniature donkeys – a process that had to be completed all the way through. One of the major components was getting the donkeys used to the weight on their backs. She said the training is done in an incremental process.
“It’s okay to stop at a place to take a break with a horse, but with a donkey, you have to push through,” Collins said.
But the trend of beer burros is growing, primarily through word-of-mouth, Collins said. With Dripping Springs’ rural character, the concept of having a donkey at an outdoor wedding is “doable” and acceptable.
“It’s a novelty to have a small barn animal at a wedding. It’s unexpected, cute and different,” Collins said. “It’s something so unexpected, weird and cool … a wedding with a donkey, you can’t help but be happy about that.”
Ensuring the donkeys are taken care of, along with respected by guests, is an important factor for Collins and Randig.
Randig said the donkeys are excited about going to events, and are accustomed to being around groups of people.
“The behavior of donkeys is interesting. They’re similar to a dog. They enjoy the companionship of their owners. They cuddle and are compassionate,” Randig said. “They enjoy the weddings and taking photos.”
The chance to share the donkeys with clients and other people is what drives Collins.
“To share that kind of interaction with other people and have them be able to have a connection with the donkeys, it’s a joy to see the joy light up in their faces,” Collins said.