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Dutchess County Fair “Thinking DIFFERENTLY” for Families with Special Needs

Published: 8/4/2016

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Colleen Pillus

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro congratulates the Dutchess County Fair for its efforts to “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” for individuals and families with special needs.   On Thursday, August 25th, special needs families will be able to enjoy the Dutchess County Fair ahead of the hustle and bustle of crowds with a special early gate opening at 9am as well as a sensory sensitive hour of carnival rides.  

Carnival Ride at Dutchess County FairEach year, the Dutchess County Fair, New York State’s second largest county fair, hosts nearly half a million patrons, and offers visitors a chance to enjoy live entertainment, carnival rides, agricultural exhibits, and horticultural displays, and so much more.  However, for some individuals and families with special needs; the lights, sounds, and crowds can make it difficult to enjoy all the Dutchess County Fair has to offer, particularly those individuals with sensory processing issues.   The flashing lights and loud music, in addition to waiting lines for rides, can cause stress and anxiety.

The Fair is offering special needs families early entry to the fairgrounds on Thursday, August 25th starting at 9am, an hour before the official 10am start time.    Families will have the opportunity to enjoy the fairgrounds, including the animal barns on Livestock Hill and the 4H Exhibit Hall, ahead of the crowds.    Additionally, the carnival midway area will open at 9:30am and will feature a special hour of “sensory sensitivity.”   The flashing lights, music and other sounds and noises will be turned off until 10:30am to give individuals who are impacted by sensory processing disorders a chance to enjoy the rides without the drawbacks that wait time, lights and sounds can cause.     While not all of the attractions and exhibits will be open at 9am, the soft opening provides families a chance to ease into their day at the Fair as the fairgrounds “wake up for the day,” ahead of the arrival of the crowds.

WeThinkDIFFERENTLY logoDutchess County Fairgrounds General Manager Andy Imperati said, “The Dutchess County Fair is proud to ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ and offer this opportunity for families with special needs to visit the Fair and our many attractions with some minor adjustments that can make the day easier for them.   We want the Fair to be an experience every family can enjoy!”

County Executive Molinaro said, “So many families look forward to the annual Dutchess County Fair all year long and it is one of the many events that make us ‘Distinctly Dutchess.”    But for some families certain of aspects of the fair including the crowds, the lights and the sounds, can cause sensory chaos and mar their experienced - while others may not attend all.   Making some small changes can have a big impact for a special needs families and I am grateful to Andy Imperati, the Agricultural Society and the Dutchess County Fairgrounds team for taking on our challenge to think differently.”

County Executive Molinaro’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, launched in 2015, is a call to action to help make Dutchess County a community that is supportive and inclusive for individuals of all abilities.

The Dutchess County Fair runs Tuesday, August 23rd through Sunday, August 28th, opening at 10am each day.   Admission and ride tickets can be purchased online, at an advance sale discount rate, or on-site. Children under 12 are free.   On Thursday, August 25th, special needs families coming to enjoy “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” Day should enter the Fair at the main ticket gate.  For more information and a full schedule of the Dutchess County Fair’s events, see: