BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (AP) — The Cole Chevy Mountain Festival went quiet and dark Wednesday for a group of people with sensory issues to be able to come and enjoy the carnival.
“We are very fortunate to bring an opportunity today that we’ve never had here before at the Cole Chevy Mountain Festival,” said president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Two Virginias Jeff Disibbio.
The Chamber of Commerce partnered with Cole Chevy, First Community Bank, Grant’s Supermarket, James H. Drew Exposition, and Mefcor Outdoors in order to provide the funds for this event.
“We’ve tried to go through the steps of giving back a little bit more to the community,” said Disibbio. “What we’ve successfully done today is brought in a few folks that are suffering from autism and some other sensory issues, so we are having what’s called a ‘Quiet Carnival.’”
The carnival’s vendors and Jimmy Drew’s events turned off all of their music and lights from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. that may be overstimulating to someone with autism or other sensory issues.
“We are allowing those folks who are triggered by loud noises, loud sounds, and visually stimulating things to come out, and they are able to participate whereas on a typical night, they would not be able to do so,” Disibbio explained.
The parents of the autistic children expressed their gratefulness for this experience and how special it is to their child.
“This is a really special thing for him to get to do,” said Teresa Dinger. “I think it’s really nice that they’ve provided this opportunity for our kids to have a really nice experience without being overwhelmed and just cater to their needs.”
Dinger’s son Zachary is autistic, and she expressed his love for the carnival and her appreciation for his ability to get to participate this year.
Dinger said that her favorite part is seeing her son enjoy everything and be comfortable and happy while they are at the festival.
Another mother, Misty Bailey, added, “They are very sensitive to sounds and it’s overwhelming to go to different amusement parks and to the carnival in general when it is normal, but today it’s wonderful.”
Bailey’s daughter Olivia is one from an autistic class from Glenwood School that was able to come participate in the Quiet Carnival.
“I love seeing her happy and able to do things other kids can do,” said Bailey.
Disibbio said that the chamber is hoping to make the Quiet Carnival a tradition if it is a success this year and if there is a demand for it.
“We hope it can be something that we can continue to do from now on,” he said.
The festival tries to provide some sort of service every year such as the COVID shots last year and the blood pressure screening they are offering this year, but they are hoping the Quiet Carnival becomes something they can do every year.
“Maybe this will be the one thing that we can have that we do every year,” said Disibbio. “It’s something we think will hopefully be a game-changer for some of the people that have never experienced something like this.”