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Three Rivers Festival opens in a special way

CHANNAHON – The Ferris wheel turned out to be a ride that Anastacio Salazar’s 4-year-old son did not quite like Wednesday as they visited the Channahon Three Rivers Festival.

Once the ride started going fast, Emiliano started to squirm and stretched out toward the door. His dad held him tightly and then waved at the attendant to stop the ride.

Anastacio’s request to stop the ride was not a problem because all of the families and caregivers in attendance at the carnival were accompanying people with special needs.

The people running the rides knew that children like Emiliano, who has Down syndrome, might need to experience the carnival at a different pace than other children.

The Channahon-Minooka Rotary Club, in conjunction with Fantasy Amusements, invited all these individuals and their caregivers for a half-day Wednesday at the Three Rivers Festival in advance of the public opening of the carnival.

The carnival opened Wednesday evening and will continue through Sunday at Central Park, which is at Route 6 and Bluff Road.

These children, their parents and caregivers swam at the Tomahawk Aquatic Center, ate, and attended the carnival – all free of charge. Food was donated by John Carnagio’s McDonald’s in Channahon and Minooka and TCBY of Shorewood. Volunteers also came from the Rotary Clubs of Joliet and Morris.

For father, Anastacio, there was another purpose in attending the event – he and his wife could visit with other parents of special needs children. He said no one else in his family has a child with Down syndrome.

“It’s a chance for us to familiarize ourselves with other parents. We ask people [we see here] with children with Downs, ‘How do you do this? How do you handle things?’ ”

So the event also became a chance to relax in the company of others who understand.
Ride Superintendent Rick Stanley from Fantasy Amusements, the carnival company, said the entire park for the morning was geared to the needs of people with special needs who might not like too much commotion or too much noise.

He said they don’t even open the Freakout or Supershot, rides that swing violently or drop riders too suddenly. No food or game booths were open either. In the one booth that was opened, manned by Stanley’s wife, Gina, all the stuffed toys and trinkets were given away at no charge. All the participants had to do was turn over a plastic duck.

“It’s good for our hearts, their hearts,” Stanley said. “It’s good all the way around.”

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