Students from Valley View Elementary try on fire helmets courtesy of the Roswell Fire Department during Special Needs Day at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair, Tuesday morning. (Mark Wilson Photo)
The state fair has once again kicked off and holding true to tradition Tuesday was Special Needs Day.
“It’s a great chance to determine if (the kids) like the fair,” said Julie Donahue, the developmental specialist at Los Pasitos, a school for children ages 0 to 3 who have developmental delays or are at risk. “For some kids (the day) is just enough fair, but for some they find that they love the rides or the animals and then parents can bring them back.”
From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. a schedule of events had the kids from different schools going to different shows and presentations throughout the day.
This year’s special entertainment was “Dragon Scales and Fairy Tales,” a show starring Fairy Princess Tatiara and a baby dragon. Princess Tatiara, known as Nicki Ojeda behind the scenes, has been doing the show for two years, but it has been going on for 17 years. This was the first year it showed at New Mexico’s State Fair.
“(I like) making the kids happy and seeing their smiles when they believe in magic,” she said. “And seeing the parents leave going, ‘That was actually pretty funny.’”
With constant audience participation, the auditorium filled with giggles as the kids cheered and laughed at the baby dragon, named Logan by the audience.
But the most popular show, as is true nearly every year, was the milking cow show. The kids learned how a cow is milked and each child received a little container that they were told to shake until they had each made their own little amount of butter.
For the teachers though, they mostly like the parental involvement.
“I think (the best part) is being able to come out with the kids and their parents,” said age four teacher at Parkview, Erica Rivera. The Grade Level Representative, Oralia Aquilar, agreed that the best part of Special Needs Day is the parent contribution.
“We get to meet the parents and they get to participate with the kids,” she said.
Parkview then takes the farm and animal theme of the fair back to school and uses it to help in educating the kids. The month of October is dedicated to the farm theme.
It’s a great chance for the kids to visit the fair in a small dose without parents trying to pay for the whole family only to realize their 2-year-old doesn’t actually want to be there, Donahue said. It also helps to have less people around.
“A lot of the kids have sensory concerns,” she explained. “So with 100 people instead of 1,000 people it’s not as overwhelming.”
The schools that attended were Los Pasitos with kids 3 years of age and younger, Parkview with preschoolers aged 3 and 4, elementary school children from RISD schools and preschool and elementary school kids from Dexter, but there also were individuals who came without being associated with any school.