During past visits to the Jackson County 4-H Fair, Kendra Hurley pushed her son, Skylark Bingham, around in his wheelchair to check out all of the attractions.
He, however, wasn’t able to get on any of the rides.
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On Tuesday, Skylark was able to do that for the first time.
The 8-year-old Seymour-Redding Elementary School student was among nearly 30 kids from around the area participating in the fair’s first ride day for individuals with special needs.
Two hours were set aside in the afternoon for the students and their chaperones to take advantage of free rides and games on the midway.
“He’s excited about it. He is smiling and laughing, and it makes me feel really good,” Hurley said of her son. “This is a special opportunity for him to be able to do it without lots of people. I like him to experience everything he can. I don’t want him to feel different than the others. It means a lot.”
She found out about the opportunity from a flier sent home with her son from Mika Ahlbrand, director of special education for Seymour Community School Corp.
Ahlbrand said she knew of other fairs in the area that offered ride days for kids with special needs and thought Jackson County needed to do it, too.
Last year, she said fair board member Butch Robertson put her in contact with Poor Jack Amusements, which provides rides and games for the midway.
After Robertson died in the spring, Ahlbrand began working with fair board member Jim Thompson to ensure ride day would still happen.
Thompson also saw the importance of starting ride day.
“These kids need to have the opportunity to come and participate just like all of the others, so this is just an opportunity for the fair to do something for them,” he said.
Ahlbrand said large crowds, loud noises and long waits at the fair can be a real challenge or barrier for kids with special needs, so it was good to have time set aside just for them.
“It’s proof of a lot of the folks showing up that this type of an event really meets their needs, and they can come participate and enjoy the fair just like everybody else,” she said. “We wanted an opportunity for all students to be able to have this experience.”
Also attending were Janette Coulter of Seymour and her son, Billy Coulter, a freshman at Seymour High School.
Janette said it never worked out for her to attend ride day at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair in past years, and when she could go this year, it was rained out. So she was excited to hear about Jackson County starting a ride day.
“I’m really happy that Jackson County did it this year because he definitely loves all of this stuff,” she said of her son. “He’s kind of an adrenaline addict. This is perfect.”
Janette said the event also allowed for interaction between students and parents.
“I like the fact that they are including all of us and that we all get to see each other outside the school system,” she said. “A lot of times, parents don’t get to meet other parents of the kids, so it’s really nice that he can see his classmates out here doing this.”
Emma Martin of Seymour works at Graessle-Mercer, which printed the fair books this year. That’s how she found out about ride day and knew it would be perfect for her son, Adrian Martin, 3.
Having autism, Adrian normally is affected by the loudness and flashing lights at the fair. Ride day offered a calmer environment.
“He has meltdowns when it comes to very overcrowded areas. He gets very overwhelmed,” Emma said. “But with this, it will really help him be more comfortable.”
Heather Law of Crothersville found out about ride day when her son, Owen Law, 5, came home from preschool with a flier.
She said Owen also usually struggles with lots of noise and busyness, but those distractions weren’t factors Tuesday.
“I think it’s a great asset to the community,” she said of ride day. “I think our special needs kids are sometimes overlooked, so it’s just a day that we can come out and enjoy. We don’t always get that opportunity. He just wants to be like a typical kid, so this is an opportunity that I feel like he gets to do that.”
Having a child with autism has been a new experience for Angie Francis of Freetown. She recently found out about Unlocking the Spectrum in Seymour for her daughter, Chloe Francis, 6, to be involved in classes.
Chloe’s preschool teacher at Brownstown Elementary School let Angie know about ride day.
“It means everything to think that people will do this for (kids with special needs) because the world isn’t equipped for them,” she said. “It means everything to us to know that they are acknowledged and people understand. More and more people understand now, but still, it’s just something that if you haven’t dealt with it, you just don’t understand.”
Angie said Chloe likes being on rides, but the sounds sometimes bother her. Tuesday’s event, though, provided a quieter atmosphere.
“It’s amazing that she’s able to do it and she’s able to have access to it, and this might help her not be so afraid when we go other places,” Angie said.
David Aszman of Brownstown also said his daughter, Zoee Aszman, 10, likes being on the rides and playing games at the fair.
Any other time, that costs money, so he was glad to learn about the free ride day.
“It’s a great idea. I didn’t have to spend any money, and as much as kids go on rides, you’d be broke by the time we’re done, especially riding over and over and over,” David said, smiling.
The event also allowed for some family bonding.
“It gives us a time to spend parent and child time together,” David said. “She enjoys being with her dad.”
Zoee liked some of the rides so much that she did them more than once. That was just fine with David.
“Oh, it’s wonderful,” he said. “It melts my heart to see her smile. I enjoy it every day I see it.”
Thompson said he expects ride day to be offered next year, too.
“They’ve got good parent turnout. That’s the secret to it,” he said. “We can continue to do it as long as we have that kind of support.”
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Jackson County Fair schedule
Poor Jack Amusements, coupon night with unlimited rides from 6 p.m. to close with $20 bracelet, $16 with Poor Jack coupon
9 a.m.: 4-H dairy beef judging, show arena
10 a.m.: Draft horses, mules and Haflingers released
1 p.m.: 4-H beef heifer judging, show arena
2:30 p.m.: Check-in for 4-H creative dramatics performance, pavilion
2:30 p.m.: 4-H beef show judging, show arena
3 p.m.: 4-H creative dramatics performance, pavilion
6 to 9 p.m.: Stars & Stripes Cloggers, Country Kickers line dancers, antique building stage
6:30 p.m.: Tomahawk and knife throwing finals, behind antique building
7 p.m.: Ko’s Martial Arts Academy, pavilion
7 p.m.: Nightly antique machinery demonstration behind antique building
7:30 p.m.: 4-H supreme showman, show arena
7 p.m.: Thursday Night Thunder for Indiana Pro Late Models, modifieds, superstocks, hornets; $15 for adults, pit pass $30, $2 for children 6 to 12, under 6 free; sponsored by Jackson County Tire
Poor Jack Amusements Moonlight Madness with unlimited carnival rides 6 p.m. to close with $20 bracelet
7 a.m.: Swine going home, locker for person use or state fair exhibits released
7 to 8 a.m.: Open class goat registration
9 a.m.: 4-H dairy goat show open breeding classes judged immediately after each 4-H class, show arena
Noon: Jackson County Fair fashion show; B.loved will present a formal attire show in conjunction with the show, grandstand
2 p.m.: Grand parade of livestock registration deadline, 4-H building
3 p.m.: Presentation of 4-H trophies from 4-H building, 4-H building winners circle awards, 10-year 4-H members, mini T-shirts, achievement, leadership and outstanding junior leader plaques, and I Dare You Awards, pavilion
5:30 p.m.: The MelloTones barbershop chorus, pavilion
6 p.m.: Alley Katz, antique building stage
6:30 p.m.: Grand parade of open class grand champions and any 4-H livestock, show arena
6:45 p.m.: Schulhaus 4+3 German Band, pavilion
7 p.m.: Nightly antique machinery demonstration behind antique building
7:30 p.m.: Beagles and coon and foxhound show, $2 entry fee, show arena
8 p.m.: Stars & Stripes Cloggers, antique building stage
11 p.m.: 4-H animals released from the fairgrounds (not in auction)
8 p.m.: Dylan Schneider country music sponsored by 92.7 Nash Icon WXKU; $10 adults, $2 children 6 to 12, under 6 free