Special Needs Day offers all ages a “full fair experience”

Published 12:15 am Friday, September 21, 2018

By Andie Foley

For individuals with special needs across the county, Thursday morning was filled with experiences that ranged from close encounters with livestock to witnessing the hatching of a velociraptor.

All took place on the grounds of this year’s Rowan County Fair as part of the organization’s annual Special Needs Day.

David Correll, who oversees the fair’s livestock shows, said the event offered students and adults with special needs a “full fair experience,” without the pressures of heavy crowds or overwhelming sounds, lights and noises.

And a full fair experience it was. School groups and others enjoyed clown shows, rides and fair exhibits alike.

“Some of the kids aren’t riding the rides,” said chaperone Sharon Hood. “But, I think they all really enjoyed the animals in the Lazy Five petting zoo.”

Hood attended with students from North Rowan Elementary School. Justin Reliford, a fifth-grader among the bunch, said his favorite experience of the day had been the motorcycle ride.

Reliford also got to pose for a picture atop a dinosaur in the Dakota and Friends Dinosaur Show.

Jamon Skipper, with the show, said Thursday’s exhibitions had been one of a kind.

“We know that some of the kids we’re seeing today are more tactile. Some have vision problems,” he said. “We try to work with whatever there is to give these kids the full experience.”

Dinosaur puppeteer Drew Nowlin said the day had been beneficial and heartwarming.

Some 12 students got a backstage pass to Rowan County Fair staple: they were partnered with student volunteers from 4-H and the Future Farmers of America to learn how to handle and show sheep.

Allison Williams, a volunteer and senior FFA member at South Rowan High School, said she enjoyed the opportunity to work with the young learners and teach them about agriculture.

“It’s a very important part of everything,” she said. “If you don’t have agriculture, you don’t eat.”

While the sheep she was working with may have been a bit jumpy, Williams said the experience was rewarding and fun.

“The kids were really excited about it all,” she said, “They got really excited to be able to work with an animal.”

She, like Hood, said that the day had given the opportunity for some rare and treasured experiences.

“It really is tremendous that they have this for these kids,” said Hood, “because otherwise so many of them would never have the opportunity to come.”