Quiet ride time offered at fair for individuals with special needs



Earlier in the week, Tina Thompson told her son, Conner Sears, they were going to the Jackson County Fairgrounds for a special event Tuesday.

For an hour and a half in the afternoon, quiet ride time was offered for individuals with special needs and their families.

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A variety of rides were available for them to enjoy at no charge, and they were the only ones allowed on the rides during that time.

Thompson and her son went last year when it was offered for the first time. Before this year’s fair, she showed him videos from that day.

“When we pulled up and actually parked and he saw the midway, he just started beaming,” said Thompson, who lives in Spraytown. “He was ready to go.”

That’s a moment she won’t forget.

“Oh, I love it,” Thompson said. “I love when he just shows me how happy he is over something. It’s just one of the best feelings you can get as a parent.”

Thompson had shared information about the quiet ride time with other families she knows, and that helped increase attendance Tuesday.

She said she wanted them to experience the same feeling she and her son did last year.

“We go out in public and we get judged all of the time, so to come here and to be able to do rides, nobody judges you, and everybody helps out each other,” Thompson said. “It’s just amazing.”

By now, Thompson and her son have determined their favorite ride: Scrambler.

“He was scared of it last year,” she said. “We got on it, and as soon as I started laughing, he just loved it, and it’s his favorite now.”

Thompson said she appreciates the Jackson County Fair board and Poor Jack Amusements for making the quiet ride time happen again.

“I started asking if they were going to do this earlier in the summer,” she said, smiling. “It’s just an overall acceptance, and to see all of that, you can never thank anybody enough for doing that.”

The inaugural ride day for individuals with special needs drew nearly 30 people and their chaperones.

Mika Ahlbrand, director of special education for Seymour Community School Corp., 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.

Ahlbrand said large crowds, loud noises and long waits at the fair can be a real challenge or barrier for kids with special needs. The ride time set aside just for them offers a calmer environment.

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 of 2017, Ahlbrand began working with fair board member Jim Thompson to ensure ride day would still happen.

Thompson was involved again this year when it drew around 100 people, including individuals with special needs and their family and friends.

“There wasn’t any doubt that we were going to attempt to do it one more time,” he said. “Because of the number we’ve got today, we’ll probably try to do it again next year.”

Thompson said he liked watching everyone interact and have fun.

“Just the reactions from some of them,” he said. “Some of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever been on a ride.”

Makenna Smith, 4, of Medora can be counted in that group.

Her great-grandmother, Kathy Bowers of Seymour, said it was great to see her ride on a train, a car ride and a carousel Tuesday.

“She tried all of them today,” Bowers said. “She doesn’t talk too much, so she just smiles at all of them.”

Seeing Makenna have a good time on the rides with family members made Bowers emotional.

“I could cry, but it’s good tears,” she said, smiling. “It’s overwhelming to me. To see her do it, it’s all about the kids for me.”

Alexiss Durham, 8, and Jeremiah Durham, 10, both of Seymour, said they had a good time on the rides together and also going with Makenna.

Alexiss liked the carousel the most.

“It went up, down, up, down,” she said, smiling.

Jeremiah said he favored the Orient Express because it was a bigger ride.

Bowers said it’s great the fair offers quiet ride time.

“They don’t have to worry about the crowds,” she said of the individuals with special needs. “And if they don’t like it, they will stop the ride.”

Donald and Stephanie Griffin of Seymour had a good time at Tuesday’s event, too.

Their favorite part was watching Jeremiah Griffin go from ride to ride with his sister.

“He likes to come out and do big rides,” Donald said of his son. “He likes his sister to do the rides with him.”

Stephanie said one ride stood out.

“He smiles so much on the bumper cars,” she said.

Having an opportunity like quiet ride time means a lot to the family.

“It’s fantastic,” Donald said. “It’s a great thing they are doing. We appreciate it.”

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Poor Jack Amusements, coupon night with unlimited rides from 6 p.m. to close with $20 bracelet, $17 with Poor Jack coupon

9 a.m.: 4-H dairy beef and dairy feeder steer judging, Show Arena 1

10 a.m.: Draft horses, mules and Haflingers released

10 a.m.: 4-H beef heifer judging, Show Arena 1

Noon: 4-H beef show judging, Show Arena 1

2:30 p.m.: Check-in for 4-H creative dramatics performance, pavilion

3:00 p.m.: 4-H creative dramatics performance, pavilion

6 p.m.: 4-H junior supreme showman contest, Show Arena 1

6 to 9 p.m.: Country Kickers line dancers, Stars & Stripes cloggers, antique building stage

6:30 p.m.: Tomahawk and knife throwing finals, behind antique building

7 p.m.: 4-H supreme showman contest, Show Arena 1

7 p.m.: Ko’s Martial Arts Academy, pavilion

7 p.m.: Nightly antique machinery demonstration, behind antique building


7 p.m.: Thursday Night Thunder for Indiana Pro Late Models, modifieds, super stocks and hornets; ($15 for adults; pit pass $30; $2 for children 6 to 12; under 6 free)


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