- Grove City, Pennsylvania

August 28, 2012

What's fair when fighting an ape?

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

STONEBORO — Did you ever hear the one about the guy who fought a gorilla at The Great Stoneboro Fair?

It might sound too crazy to be true, but Dale McFadden has been sharing his story for years and has yet to grow tired of recounting that day in 1959.

"Back then I was strong as a bull and quick as lightning, but that gorilla was faster," he said Monday.

McFadden, 70, of Findley Township, was 17 at the time and living in Nectarine in Venango County. The caged gorilla was a side show of sorts, with the trainer urging fair-goers to fight the gorilla to win cash.

"Nobody would go in," said McFadden, who couldn't remember the name of the trainer or gorilla, which weighed about 130 pounds to his 115.

After working up "a little too much courage" he credits to a few beers and typical teen-boy behavior of wanting to show off, McFadden decided he was up for the challenge.

He didn't feel prepared to defend himself against the gorilla, which was muzzled and wearing boxing gloves, with a crowd of paying onlookers gathered around the cage.

"I didn't know he was going to box," said McFadden, who thought they were going to wrestle.

One round was enough to leave McFadden with a bloody lip after the animal punched him in the head. The gorilla also kicked at him and left him with scrapes across his knuckles. "I did get my five dollars," he said of sticking it out for a few minutes; he would have walked away with $50 if he knocked over the gorilla.

McFadden, who thinks he might have bought more beer with his winnings, received first aid treatment along with the trainer, who was scratched by the gorilla after removing the gloves.

He recalls the gorilla coming back to the fair for several more years before an animal rights group shut it down, saying the caged fights were considered cruel to animals.

"He entertains the grandkids with the story," said McFadden's wife of 43 years, Judy. They have two children and four grandchildren and plan on attending the fair this year.

Published Aug. 22, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy of 201 A Erie St., Grove City.