Sunday, May 19, 2019
Special needs exhibitors at the Monroe County Fair were Hannah Schroeder, Paul Doyle, Ronald Dixon, Amiracle Cole, Jason Gerke, Cayden Pingel, Logan Lapp and Jasmine Grey Owl. Assisting the students in the show ring were Monroe County 4-H and FFA mentors along with members of the Monroe County Junior Fair Board. Herald photo Bob Kliebenstein

A unique opportunity

Special needs kids show animals at Monroe County Fair in only event of its kind statewide

When asked if he was ready Paul Doyle gave a quick nod and a barely audible yes.

When asked if he was a bit nervous Doyle offered mirrored responses to the question. Doyle was sitting beside his uncle, Dan Wagner, who concurred his nephew had a small case of jitters, but was ready for the show

Minutes later Doyle and seven other special needs exhibitors entered the ring in the sheep/swine/small animal barn for the second special needs livestock show at the Monroe County Fair.

The event's first year was 2017 as a tool to build confidence and promote inclusion for special needs students and their parents. The event was also open to families in neighboring counties.

Shae Fox was pleased with the participation. Last year two exhibitors were involved compared to eight. An increased effort to get information to each Monroe County school and 4-H club was spearheaded by the Monroe County Junior Fair Board, Fox added. That group includes Matt Kortbein, Joelle Liddane, Micaela Kolterman, Anne Peterson and Angela Klinkner.

While unable to confirm for certain, several people familiar with Wisconsin county fairs thought Monroe is the lone county fair to offer a special needs livestock show. Someone thought there could be a district fair in northern Wisconsin that offers the opportunity. Point being, the Monroe County fair offers a unique opportunity.

Brenda Howe was excited for her granddaughter, Amiracle Cole, soon to be 12-years-old, to enter the ring and sidle up to a wether. All students were accompanied by a youth 4-H or FFA mentor and some by a parent. Howe said she heard the event was being considered at the Tomah special needs prom in April.

"I was excited to hear about it then and am excited to see it happen," Howe said.

Cole is no stranger to smaller animals. They have rabbits, cats and dogs at their home. With a slight smile Howe said she is hopeful Americle does not get too attached to any larger animal species.

The show ring resembled a version of Noah's ark with a couple of small calves, rabbits, a llama and sheep being lead by halters. There was a chicken in a cage. A nice mix.

In the ring a judge spent a little time with each exhibitor to make the experience more realistic. Liddane asked each exhibitor a few questions. Some a bit shy with a response. Some seemingly naturals in the spotlight.

One thing is certain for the immediate future. The event will continue with emphasis on building participation. If two exhibitors to eight is any indication its future appears bright.

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