Dutchess County Fair ‘thinks differently’

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BluePath Service Dogs at the fair

RHINEBECK – The Dutchess County Fair, the second-largest of its kind in the state, also holds the distinct honor of being the first county fair in the state to adopt the “ThinkDFFERENTLY” initiative proposed by Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro.
“ThinkDIFFERENTLY,” launched by Molinaro in 2015, is, according to the county executive, “a call to action to help make Dutchess County a community that is supportive and inclusive for individuals of all abilities” or as Molinaro says “differently-abled.” 
In New York, 100 villages, towns, cities and counties have signed on to make their communities more inclusive.
At the Dutchess County Fair, it was “ThinkDIFFERENTLY Day” on Thursday. Individuals with developmental disabilities and their families were able to enjoy the fair ahead of the crowds with a special gate opening at 9 in the morning and sensory sensitive hours on the carnival midway from 9:30 to 11:30.
During this time the lights, sounds and crowds that make those with processing issues were reduced or eliminated. 
The special needs attendees were able to navigate the midway without all the flashing lights and loud music that can cause stress or tension making it difficult or impossible for them to enjoy the fair.  Because of the early entry, the special fair-goers were also allowed to gain entry to rides without having to deal with large crowds which are often a stress trigger for those with special needs.
According to Dutchess County Fairgrounds President Andy Imperati, this year’s ThinkDIFFERENTLY day also featured an improved program called the “AgriVenture Kids Activity Tent” which started in 2016.  The program includes a mock farm, showing children how food is grown and sold, allows visitors to dig potatoes from a sandbox, shear a fake sheep and milk “Dutchess” the cow. Imperati said they want “everyone to be able to enjoy the fair experience,” so we are thrilled to again offer ThinkDIFFERENTLY at the Dutchess County Fair.
Molinaro, who has a young daughter on the Autism spectrum, noted that the Dutchess County Fair is “the first fair in America to take steps to make the fair accessible and enjoyable for people of all needs and abilities.”  Volunteers that train service dogs for individuals with Autism were also on hand with their Labrador Retrievers to give the attendees one more reason to feel comfortable at the fair.