2018-07-22 / Editorial

People with special needs, veterans taken care of at State Fair

The 135th running of the Eastern Michigan State Fair (EMSF) opens Tuesday for five glorious days of fun and entertainment. Nothing quite says “Summer” in Lapeer County than the thrills and spills to be experienced this week when upwards of 40,000 people are expected to attend the iconic celebration in Imlay City.

From 4-H exhibits, a FFA petting zoo, grandstand attractions that include a bull riding rodeo, ‘Night of Destruction’ and a demolition derby, great midway rides, daily circus performances and a new Sea Lion Splash program the EMSF offers something for everyone to enjoy. The County Press is again pleased to sponsor Super Saver Days Tuesday and Wednesday when everyone will get into the fairgrounds for a low price of $10 before 2 p.m.

Two events on Thursday (July 26) are particularly noteworthy. We applaud the Fair Board and those who partnered to make them happen for two unique groups of people — children and adults with special needs and veterans and active duty who are serving or served on behalf of our country and the proud communities they call home.

Special Needs Day

For two hours (10 a.m. to noon), the fair gates will open exclusively for people with special needs and their caretakers. Music is muted, lights are lowered, and extra staff will be on hand to ensure each attendee has the opportunity to enjoy the carnival. Robert O’Dell, coordinator of Transition and Career Services at Lapeer County Education and Technology Center, is central to organizing the yearly event that has been going on for half a decade, and part of his responsibility is reaching out to teachers, special needs advocacy groups and caretakers to raise awareness. Last year more than 300 people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other special needs attended the state fair.

In addition to going on rides and playing games, Special Needs Day attendees will also tour the animal barns — a highlight for many who otherwise may never get the opportunity to get up close and see and hear farm animals.

Special Needs Day is made possible by generous support from Imlay City Ford and Lapeer County Community Mental Health.

As Special Needs Day gets more and more popular, Fair Manager Ian Kempf and O’Dell said staff at the fair will continue to be dedicated to making the day as memorable as possible.

Veterans program

This Thursday, thanks to Kroger of Imlay City, all veterans and active duty will be admitted free to the fair. The only stipulation is vets must check in at the “VetMobile” and present identification (DD214), a service organization membership card or VA Health Care Card.

The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Mobile Vet Center, affectionately dubbed The VetMobile is a 28-foot long RV jam-packed with equipment, a satellite link to access the internet and the array of VA benefit forms, a full coffee pot and a popcorn popper. The program is designed to bring information about veteran benefits and help to veterans in rural areas.

Lapeer County Veterans Affairs-accredited service officers will be at the VetMobile, available to answer questions about benefits and services. With internet capabilities, experts on hand can access vital VA forms on site, including the 180 — a request for obtaining military records, such as the important DD 214.

Kudos to organizers for providing an opportunity for special needs individuals to experience the fair, as well to salute and serve veterans on Thursday.

Summer is passing fast, but there’s a lot more fun to come. Following the EMSF the excitement moves to the county seat for Lapeer Days (Aug. 17-19) and Metamora Country Days and Hot Air Balloon Festival (Aug. 24-25). Get out and enjoy the season.

This week, we’ll see you at the fair.

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