GOSHEN — Fair rides were modified until noon to make them more accessible for those with disabilities. It was one of many amenities made available during the Elkhart County 4-H Fair’s Disabilities Awareness Day on Monday.

“The whole purpose of this day is to give people living with disabilities the opportunity to experience the fair,” said Doug Thorne, director of the fair’s Disabilities Awareness Day. “They experience the things they might not be able to experience during the traditional times when there’s a lot of people, loud noise, activities, loud music, etc., but also the entire fair.”

During the special day, anyone with a developmental disability got free entry to the fair. Midway operator North American Amusements modified nearly 20 rides by eliminating lighting, slowing them down and turning off the music, so that even those with sensory disorders could enjoy the fair, at no cost to participants.

“It’s a fun day and it’s all about them,” said Elkhart County Special Olympics coordinator Shailyn Mathews.

Skills competitions in partnership with the Special Olympics were held in basketball, target toss, bocce, long jumps, softball throw and a 10-meter race. There was a sensory station hosted by Lippert Components.

“It’s a pretty adventurous kind of day,” Mathews said.

The annual event brought out a larger crowd than normal, organizers said, likely due also to favorable weather conditions.

"I have never seen this kind of activity as I saw on the Midway," Thorne said.

Vendors set up tents along the park and several community advocacy groups were on site including the Elkhart County Special Olympics, ADEC, Mosaic, ResCare, Ryan’s House, Lighthouse Autism Center, Loveway and others who support folks with developmental disabilities.

Following the skills competitions, Street Drum Corp. performed, and then an award ceremony took place for all participants involved in the competition.

Sponsors for the day were Superior Mobility and Beds by George.


Up next: Tuesday is Senior Citizens' Day. Anyone 62 and older is admitted free until 3 p.m. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. Rides are open from 3 to 11 p.m. Entertainment is Morgan Wallen with special guest Riley Green, free at the grandstand, scheduled for 8 p.m. 

Weather: Forecasters are calling for mostly sunny skies with a high of 78 degrees.  

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