Bartlett 4th of July Festival opens early for people with special needs, draws hundreds

BARTLETT, Ill. (WLS) -- Children and adults with special needs enjoyed carnival rides and games ahead of the general public Wednesday afternoon at the Bartlett 4th of July Festival.

Nathan Barrico, 11, was one of the special guests that enjoyed the first couple of hours of the festival. He loves riding the Tilt-A-Whirl, but normally the crowds, music, and lights keep him from going to carnivals.

"When you got young kids with special needs what better place to go than a place without crowds and less noise," said Jerry Rog, who is Nathan's grandfather.

The Special Needs Day Carnival has been held for several years.

"This is just a way for us to give back to people who may not be able to enjoy it with the crowds and everything going on," said Jen Alexandria, who coordinates the special needs day carnival.

It's not only a great time for the guests but the committee, which is made up of all volunteers, as well as the vendors who donate their time and money.

"It's something our employees are happy to do at no charge and on our time," said James Smith of North American Midway Entertainment, who produces the carnival.

During the private event, the music is turned off, and the sensory experience is kept to a minimum, and there are no lines or waiting. And some of those carnival games that seem impossible to win? Not here. Everyone walks away with a prize.

The small crowd also makes it much easier to navigate the grounds for those in wheelchairs.

"He doesn't get to do too much activities like this so this is really nice for these kids," said Mike Radocha, father of a special needs son.

Organizers said about 400 people attend this year's festival. This was the largest group of special needs visitors they've had.
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