Fair continues long tradition of supporting people with mental or physical challenges
When Cody Webb thinks about this Friday, he starts vibrating with excitement.
Webb along with his classmates at Belmont secondary school’s pre-employment program are getting early access to the Luxton Fall Fair.
Every year, for more than two decades, the fair has opened its doors early for people with special needs. They are granted an all access pass to the fair, including free lunch and amusement park rides.
“It’s a special day for people who are physically (or mentally) handicapped and the entire fair grounds is there’s alone,” said Ellie Horgan, a fair volunteer. “About 700 guests and their caregivers come each year.”
At least three classes from Belmont secondary school will spend the afternoon at the fair. “It’s awesome,” said Belmont student, Dennis Monchamp, 17.
“I like the alien spaceship ride,” said Belmont student Dawnie Chipps, 15.
“You mean the Starship 3000,” noted Webb, 16.
Special needs day has all the fun of the fair, minus the crowds and the chaos of the busy weekend event.
After entering the grounds, VIPs are pinned with a ribbon saying “special guest” and are given a voucher for a free cotton candy or popcorn.
“I go to the fair every year when it comes here. All my friends are there,” Chipps said.
West Coast Amusements staff volunteer their time to give the guests a sneak preview of the rides.
“(The ride operators) help them get on and off the rides. They take the time do make them comfortable,” said Lynn Gardner, special needs day co-ordinator. “If they are afraid, the operators will stop the ride.”
Special needs day is open to seniors with mobility issues as well.
“People with walkers can get through the exhibits much easier without the crowds,” said Gardner, who has organized the Luxton Fall Fair special needs day for 20 years.
Most of the fair exhibits are open during the event, including heritage displays and the antique tractors.
A hotdog lunch is provided by Sooke Harbourside Lions and Lioness Club and Girl Guides bring coffee, tea and baked goods.
Each year Peter Bourne sits on the stage playing his guitar and singing folk songs. Bourne is legally blind and loves to spend the afternoon entertaining the fairgoers.
“He has a beautiful voice,” Horgan said. “It’s great his peers get to see him and hear him play.”
To help the day run smoothly about 40 fair volunteers come out to help. High school students from Belmont secondary and Edward Milne schools also lend a hand with the special guests.
Students buddy up with special needs guests and go on rides together if their regular caregivers aren’t keen on twirling, spinning and soaring high.
The experience high schools students leave with is just as life changing as it is for the special guests.
Gardner has seen the high school students volunteer for multiple years, and some have even gone on to pursue careers working with special needs people.
“Most of the volunteers have never had an opportunity to be with special needs people,” Gardner. “People bond and buddy up and spend the afternoon together.”
Anyone with special needs or who is elderly with limited mobility is welcome to attend special needs day at the Luxton Fall Fair, Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch is served at 11 a.m. and the midway opens at noon.
The fall fair rides and midway opens for everyone Friday at 4 p.m. and through the weekend. See luxtonfair.ca for the schedule of events.