By RENEE FITE
A new festival at Norris Park will offer fun for families and educate the community about interacting with those who have special needs or disabilities.
The Wild West Fall Fest is slated for Saturday, Nov. 2, from 2 to 5 p.m. The organizer, Nicki Scott, hopes people will come out and enjoy the afternoon and show their support of those with special needs.
Scott hopes the western theme will encourage folks dress up, and make it more fun.
“This event is free and for everyone. Many of us have people in our lives with special needs, and we hope this will be a day where the entire community turns out to cheer for Tahlequah’s best citizens,” Scott said. “It’s an opportunity for families to teach their children how to treat people with special needs.”
Both of Scott’s children – a son, 7, and daughter, 2 – have special needs, so she’s experienced people’s reactions toward them.
Her daughter has Down Syndrome and her son has a type of sensory processing delay, Scott said.
“His brain doesn’t process the same way, a miswiring,” she said. “People treat my daughter a certain way because they can see it, but not as much my son.”
Tahlequah Outlaws and Nighthawks, adult special athlete groups and the high school special athletes are invited, as well as those not part a group.
“There will be a sidewalk parade, and I hope lots of people come out to cheer them on. They’ll be the VIPs in the parade,” Scott said. “They are really an inspiration. Think how they’ll feel about being cheered outside of a Special Olympics event.”
Guest speaker Deual Yochum will talk about growing up with a disability, how he would like to be treated, and how he actually was treated. He has club arms and people stare at them, Scott said.
“Most activities around the community aren’t geared to those with special needs. And they don’t often receive the attention they need,” Yochum said. “In fact, they’re looked down on, instead of encouraged to get out and show people the different ways of doing things.”
The desire to educate people who have questions is a key reason Yochum is speaking.
“People might not know who to ask or the correct procedure to ask, or they might think it will offend me, but I encourage them to ask rather than stare,” he said.
Activities include carnival-style games, such as face-painting, sensory stations, photo booth, bubble station, sidewalk chalk spot and story time station. Kids will be able to touch a fire truck, meet a policeman, enjoy karaoke fun, take part in seek-and-find games, play shuffle ball, navigate a wheelchair obstacle course and try a snag golf electronic game.
A member of the Tahlequah Outlaws adult special athletes, Kendal Davis, in charge of the bubble booth, is excited about the festival.
“I want to help people with special needs, and tell others that people with special needs are kinda cool,” Davis said.
Volunteer Natalie McAllister is a friend of Scott’s from church and a freshman at Northeastern State University. She’s taking her general education classes in preparation of a master’s in deaf education.
“It’s important for the public to know how to interact,” McAllister said. “But people tend to stereotype those with special needs. We want to help educate the community.”
To volunteer or for information, contact Scott at email@example.com.
The next meeting for Wild West Fall Fest is Monday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bank of Cherokee County, Park Hill branch.