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A Carnival for Everybody

A Carnival for Everybody

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Carnivals are a familiar experience for many people.

Bright lights, thrilling rides, the sounds, the games and the food make up a part of the small-town Americana tradition.

The carnival is an exciting time for many children, but for those with disabilities, the carnival can be an overwhelming experience as long lines, loud sounds and flashing lights make it feel unbearable. Butler County Fair set out to change that this year with the first hour of the carnival on Friday, July 19, being set aside as a benefit for children with disabilities.  

One of the kids who enjoyed the experience was 11-year-old Braxton Siffring, who is on the autism spectrum.

Braxton's mother, Rachel Siffring, found out about the opportunity from one of the Butler County Fair Board members.

"It’s so nice because we show animals so we’re at the fair the whole week," Siffring said. "He sees the rides all the time, but a lot of times with the crowds and the waiting in lines it’s hard for him. When he saw that he could just come and go on any ride he wanted whenever he wanted it really meant a lot. It’s just a lot calmer and he’s having a great time."

The idea for the benefit came from Butler County Fair Board Treasurer Mandi Topil. 

"Mandi Topil came to us and we just thought it would be a great addition for the ability to bring more people from the county in and give them a chance, where they normally wouldn’t, to ride because the kids couldn’t handle the lights or the crowds or the sounds," said Butler County Fair Board President Donnie Steager.

The triple-digit temperatures did keep some of the crowd away, but Steager said the fair board hopes to bring back the event next year.

"The heat reduced us," he said. "We knew some people would have come without the heat. We’re going to keep trying it and keep trying to grow it. The schools - East Butler and David City - were fantastic in helping us implement this. We had teachers from both schools. It really was a neat deal. I think we can keep growing it."

Xavier Coufal, who has sensory problems, was also able to enjoy the carnival thanks to the event.

"If he has too much noise and light and stuff he kind of gets confused," said Xavier's father, Jesse Coufal. "He’s having fun and not so overwhelmed. This is great. He really needs this."

Xavier and Braxton's smiles showed how much this event meant to them, as did the smiles of their parents watching their children enjoy a day at the carnival.

"I think events like this are very important because it helps include kids with disabilities in everyday things," Siffring said. "There’s going to be so many kids participating in the fair and the fact that these kids with disabilities are able to participate means so much. Otherwise, it’s hard for some kids to wait in line and things like that. Because of this possibility that they’re opening up, they get to have so much more fun than they wouldn’t always get to.

"Also I think it’s relaxing for parents. Because I think, the parents really stress out and it’s hard to deal with kids wanting to go on rides and having to wait in lines and all the things, if people are going to question why is that kid doing this thing. Now everybody has been so welcoming and opening, including Braxton, as he’s going on all these rides."

Peter Huguenin is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email peter.huguenin@lee.net

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