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Sensory-friendly options at Iowa State Fair available for 2nd year in a row

For the second year, ChildServe is offering sensory-friendly activities and spaces across the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa State Fairgrounds are filled with so many sights, sounds and smells. It's a fun part of the state fair experience for some visitors, but others need a break from all that input.

In its second year partnering with the Iowa State Fair, ChildServe is offering many sensory-friendly areas across the fairgrounds.

"This effort with the state fair, this partnership is to help create a welcoming and inclusive space for families who have children with sensory processing issues," ChildServe CEO Teri Wahlig said. "Families had told us last year that this was the first time they were able to enjoy the fair. Our state's iconic state fair is now more accessible and welcoming to families."

Experiencing multiple sounds or textures at once can overwhelm people with sensory processing issues. But making the fair more accessible does not mean removing all stimulation, since others will actively seek out those stimuli. That's why the fair is creating specific spaces for people with sensory issues.

"By allowing them the space and the activity and the support, we're hoping that they feel more comfortable and supported as they come to the Iowa State Fair," said Abbie Green, ChildServe outpatient resource manager.

One of the sensory areas is between Gates 15 and 16, called "The Garden". There, fairgoers can enjoy the peace and quiet while also interacting with nature and helping their community.

"It's nice and quiet," said Marli Vanlaningham, a volunteer with Bondurant FFA. "There's a lot of things to do up here. You're able to pick [vegetables], you can just sit here and take pictures. Just a nice, calm area."

"We see a wide variety of people," Garden Manager Izibelle Juhl added. "We have some older population here that enjoys talking to us and asking questions, but we also have the younger kids that come in and are super excited to pick stuff."

The picked vegetables will be donated to the Iowa Food Bank. 

ChildServe has other sensory-friendly areas, as well as a sensory-friendly morning on Wednesday, Aug. 16, from 8 a.m. to noon. Their calming rooms will also be staffed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. that same day.

Local 5 and CW Iowa 23 are bringing exciting 2023 Iowa State Fair experiences to you, from live newscasts to an interactive Local 5 Weather Lab experience. Come see us in front of the Administration Building (Grand Concourse) each day between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

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