Mary Beth, Ernie, Grace and Hope Kully march down Pennington Main Street with Barnie the donkey on Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017. Leading the procession is Caroline Watterson. (Photo by Schoolhouse Pictures.)

Pennington residents may have been surprised on April 9 to see a donkey strolling down South Main Street in Pennington.

The donkey led a Palm Sunday procession from St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, walking the full block length and then back to the church, with the all the service attendees and a bagpiper following. After the procession while munching on the front lawn of the church, passengers and drivers passing by on Main Street pointed, waved, shouted out the windows, and got out of their cars to the pet the donkey, named Barnie, while he munched on the church lawn.

When St. Matthew’s rector, Rev. Barbara Briggs, had the vision for a donkey to lead the procession, she worked with two Hopewell-based farms to make it happen: Crown Charter Farm, a 305-year-old farm now owned by long-time Hopewell residents the Kully family, and Unicorn Therapeutic Riding, owned by Hopewell residents Erin and Tom Hurley.

Crown Charter Farm had adopted the now six-year-old donkey from The Barnyard Sanctuary in Blairstown, which had in turn rescued him from a farm in Alabama, where a farmer had planned to shoot him because he could no longer care for him.

Although Barnie had traveled 26 hours from Alabama, he had not been in a trailer or off the farm for two years. The Kullys practiced with him for a week using a borrowed trailer. When on Palm Sunday the trailer was unavailable, Unicorn Therapeutic was able to step in and provide transport for Barnie.

Unicorn Therapeutic Riding is a non-profit organization that teaches children and adults with special needs. The farm plans to host an open house with pony rides, crafts, snacks and games on Family Fun Day, Saturday, May 6, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 171 Marshall Corner Woodsville Road, Pennington.