Hannibal Jaycees, Archway Amusement personnel team up to open carnival for visitors with special needs

Smiles filled Hannibal’s carnival Tuesday afternoon during a team effort that opened the rides for free to visitors with special needs accompanied by a guardian or parent.

The sunny afternoon marked the first time that Archway Amusement Corporation, the Hannibal Jaycees and members of groups like Abilities and Marion County Services for the Developmentally Disabled’s Silver and Gold Friends Day Camps embarked on the afternoon adventure dubbed VIP Day. Kathy Butler said the day offered one-on-one time for each of her campers and their buddies from the Junior Jaycees. Butler’s son, Evan, accompanied six-year-old Dallas as everyone received their armbands for rides and free popcorn. For the young and the young at heart alike, the experience brought excitement and an opportunity that might otherwise be cost-prohibitive or difficult to accomplish for some area families.

Evan and Dallas smiled as they looked around at all the rides. Dallas said that he loved trains, pointing out “I feel good” about the fun-filled day.

Evan Butler, who has been helping kids with special needs almost his entire life, said the experience was rewarding for all who took part.

“I love to do it — it’s better than doing the things I shouldn’t be,” he said. “I’m excited to help out.”

His mother commended the Hannibal Jaycees, Imperial-based Archway Amusement Corporation and all of the buddies and helpers who volunteered their time to make a positive impact for all of the visitors.

“To have this here for our individuals in this area is just phenomenal,” she said.

Her other two children were on their way to help out, too, and their family was excited to adopt three children with special needs. She said 19 campers between the ages of five participated in the camps, participating in activities like visiting Mark Twain Cave, the Mark Twain Riverboat and making pizzas at Breadeaux Pizza.

“They are busy everyday,” she said.

As friends hugged, talked and boarded their favorite rides, many of the participants got the chance to experience a ride for the first time. Abilities Program Coordinator and Hannibal Jaycees member Emma Dooley asked Tim if his ride on the fast-paced, spinning “Sizzler” was his first. He smiled and said yes, quickly noting that he was ready to experience other rides.

When Dooley asked if everyone was enjoying the rides so far, a unified cheer of “woo” filled the air.

Shaun and Jesse both said they liked the rapid “Cliffhanger” ride the best, and Rocky said the “Sizzler” was the one he liked the most.

“It’s fun. I like the rides,” he said.

Ashley Fessenden asked her children, Elijah, 9, and Emma, 7, which rides were their favorites. Elijah liked the dragons most of all.

“We get to spin the dragon really fast,” he said.

“We love ‘spinnies,’” Emma chimed in excitedly.

She expressed her excitement about the motorcycles, bus and dragons rides. She accompanied her brother and friends on the bumper cars.

Elijah’s classmate, Chloe, joined the bumping and spinning action inside the bumper car track. Drivers and passengers laughed as their cars careened off in various directions and momentarily jumbled together.

Five-year-old Elijah soared high into the sky with his aunt, Tonya, on the “Pharaoh’s Fury” swinging boat ride. He pointed to the boat as his favorite ride, noting “it goes up higher.” His aunt shared his feelings of happiness.

“It’s a good opportunity, it’s great to see the fair come through here,” she said. “It’s good for the community and it’s good for something for the kids to do for the Fourth of July weekend. It’s awesome.”

Theresa Noerper, co-manager with Archway Amusement Corporation, commended the Hannibal Jaycees and all the operators who volunteered to run the rides during the afternoon. She said she hopes to continue the special day in the future with the assistance of the Hannibal Jaycees, pointing out “we love your town.”

“We feel honored to be able to do it, to have the opportunity to do it for them,” she said.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com