HAMLET — They held their noses and clucked softly with the chickens in the livestock barn. But when the time came to clamber aboard the rides, disabled students from across the district flung out their arms to embrace the excitement of their own day at the Richmond County Agricultural Fair.
“Oh yeah, daddy!” an exultant Justice Stevenson of Richmond Senior High School yelled as centrifugal force flung his chain-held swing through the air.
Outside the metal fencing surrounding the ride, classmate Shelby Crow claimed she didn’t like the swings — even though she was pestering her mother to ride them a third time.
“Mommy, Mommy, lemme ride it!” she begged, impatient for a previous round of riders to depart their seats.
Each year, the district gathers its behaviorally and developmentally challenged students for their own morning at the fair.
In years past, the trip was more coordinated because all of the children attended Cordova School.
For this jaunt, the buses arrived at a staggered rate, prompting a series of reunions among children recognizing teachers and aides they had not seen since Cordova sent them off for the summer.
On the midway, students in wheelchairs bumped over the spongy ground to listen to the squeals and shrieks of classmates doing what all kids do at the fair. Parents accompanied some children; teachers and aides shepherded others.
But it all was like herding cats. There were simply too many things to see and do.
And some of it was even educational.
On the carousel, teacher Tracey Flowers of Monroe Avenue Elementary School used call-and-response teaching with her cluster of students.
“It moves in a what?” she asked about the carousel.
“In a circle!” they answered.
“Good job!” Flowers said. “I’m proud of y’all.”
After the rides, the students ate hot dogs and hamburgers prepared by a contingent from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
“We look forward to it — just to help the kids,” said Detective Brian Ingram, one of a contingent of 12 men monitoring the barbecue grill and two women setting tables down the center of the exhibit hall.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.