The sights, the sounds, the smells. Flashing lights. Calliope music. A carnival barker hollering for your attention.
For a neurotypical person, these are the hallmarks of a fair and the kind of wholesome fun you can have on the midway and exploring the many exhibits.
But for someone with sensory issues, these things add up to a smorgasbord of input designed to overwhelm.
The South Florida Fair wants to help, said fair President and CEO Vicki Chouris.
“There are so many people who are sensitive or have sensory issues,” she said, noting that these issues affect people with autism, ADHD, PTSD and dementia. “We want everyone to be able to come to the fair and have a great time.”
For the third time, the fair – which runs this year from Jan. 13-29 – will collaborate with KultureCity to be a Sensory Inclusive facility.
What does that mean? The fair has been certified by KultureCity after undergoing a process that included staff trainings led by medical professionals so fair team members can recognize guests with sensory needs and how to handle sensory overload.
KultureCity is a nonprofit that has been recognized for its work to make events more accessible to people with sensory needs. The organization has worked with events such as the Super Bowl and the MLB All Star Weekend to create Sensory Inclusive venues.
As part of the partnership with the South Florida Fair, KultureCity provided bags that are available to borrow from guest services inside each entrance. If you want to borrow a bag, you will need to leave your ID with guest services.
Each bag contains noise-canceling headphones, a marble fidget toy, a noodle fidget toy, a tangle fidget toy and a card identifying the person as using the KultureCity bag.
There also are two quiet rooms where people can go to escape the onslaught of sensory input, Chouris said. One is in the west Expo Center, and the other is in the Bink Glisson Museum in Yesteryear Village.
The idea to partner with KultureCity was first brought to fair organizers by a staff member who recognized the potential, Chouris said.
As some of my readers may know, my 4-year-old son has autism. When we took him to the fair last year, he lasted about an hour before sensory overload kicked in. At the time, he hadn’t been diagnosed and we didn’t know what we do now. We plan to attend the fair again this year, this time borrowing one of the KultureCity bags.
There also is a KultureCity app you can download to view which sensory features are available and where those features can be accessed.
Have you used a KultureCity bag or attended an event with a Sensory Inclusive facility? I would love to hear about your experience. Comment below.
This year’s fair theme is “Dino-Myte,” with animatronic dinosaurs on display and dinosaur-related exhibits for families to enjoy.
For fair hours, where to find discounted advance tickets and more, go to www.southfloridafair.com.
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