Everyone from kids to adults got a jump on the fun at Channahon’s Three Rivers Festival on Wednesday during the invitation-only event for people with special needs.

The fun-filled day began with a swim in the pool at the Tomahawk Aquatic Center, then lunch under the big tent courtesy of McDonald’s and TCBY yogurt.

By 12:30 p.m., the carnival rides were ready to start up and the games midway was open for fun.

The event is sponsored annually by the Rotary clubs of Channahon-Minooka, Morris and Joliet; as well as Fantasy Amusement Co., which brings in the carnival, TCBY and environmental engineering firm Watterson.

Over the years, it has grown from hosting 400 guests with special needs and their families and caregivers to an expected all-time high of more than 1,100 this year.

Special Needs Day at Three Rivers Fest is designed to give kids and adults with disabilities a chance to enjoy the carnival without additional crowds, loud music or other distractions that might take away from their experience.

Ride operators were ready to lend an extra hand getting on and off rides and slow things down a bit if needed. Game operators were giving special help and attention to their guests.

Chris Chesson of Channahon opted out of the early swim. He doesn’t like carnival rides. But he loves going to fairs so much that he was returning that night with friends when the festival officially opened to the public.

Steve Kirsch of Shorewood said his daughter, Rikki Kirsch, 23, loves coming to events such as this just to be able to hang out with friends that she might not otherwise see. They’ve been coming about five years now, he said.

“In the special needs community, you get to know a lot of people,” Steve Kirsch said.

Anna Gilchrist, Marcus Bennett and Connor Markiel were there with a group affiliated with Special Connections of Morris.

Anna was excited to get on the Tilt-A-Whirl and Zero Gravity rides. Marcus enjoyed the swimming – he went to state with Special Olympics in the sport.

Connor was happy to be among his pals. “Hail, hail the gangs all here,” he sang out.

There were other fun things to do this year, too, including holding a 35-pound snake from Traveling World of Reptiles and hugging lovable golden retrievers brought in by Comfort Dog Ministry.

The weather was perfect, the food was great, the volunteers were helping everywhere and there were lots of smiles, Channahon Park District Executive Director Chuck Szoke said.

“Everything is running terrific,” he said.

Channahon Mayor Missey Schumacher said she always makes sure to make Special Needs Day a priority.

“This is by far my favorite event at the Three Rivers Festival,” she said. “To see their happy faces; it’s an event I make sure I attend every year.”

Original Article