"This is my favorite day," said Lee Hastings, president of this year's fair board looking at the line for the Ferris wheel. "The expressions on these kids' faces -- that's what it's all about."
An estimated 330 special-needs kids kept the midway hopping Wednesday as they went from ride to ride, trying to find their favorite.
"They've had a handicapped day since the early 1980s," said Sandy Baker, special education supervisor with Dyersburg City Schools and a member of the fair board. "I was teaching at Dyer County Central and brought my class in 1985."
Baker's was the first class to attend the day when it was held at the old fairgrounds.
Part of that blossoming is because of the number of volunteers, not only from the community but also from Myers International Midways. The rides are provided at no cost to the kids thanks to the company.
"This is a cooperative effort between us and Myers," Hastings said. "It's in our contract to have a special-needs day and they're more than willing to do it."
For third year, lunch -- hot dogs, chips, cookies and drinks -- was compliments of Security Bank. Serving were Mary Beasley, Jennifer Nunley, Laura Dodson, Kelly Browning, Cindy Reed, Jane Taylor, Jason Roberts and Jared Agee.
Baker said she had approximately 250 kids confirm from Dyer County Schools, Dyersburg City Schools and Lake County Schools, noting the day is open to other school systems in the area.
"I wanted to see the kids have a lot of fun," he said. "Sandy's been asking me for years and years to come out. It's really great to see the kids and teachers as well. It's a neat atmosphere. There are no words for the job done to make this possible."
To assist teachers, members of the fair board and youth fair board volunteered their time.
The daughter of Jerry Pate Hollingsworth and Debbie Ogden, she grew up around the Dyer County Fair. A junior at the University of Tennessee at Martin, she is a social work major. While Hollingsworth assisted with Senior Citizens Day in 2000 when she was crowned the Fairest of the Fair, this was her first time to be at Special Needs Day.
With her major, she explained, she plans to go into school social work and thinks she'll be working with a number of special-needs children. Hollingsworth spent Wednesday morning with a group from Dyersburg Intermediate School. Her volunteer hours will count toward a humanities class she's taking this semester.
"It makes you feel good to see the kids and the smiles on their faces," Hollingsworth said as the groups slowly made their way to lunch, the kids not wanting to quit riding. "There's been a few times I didn't know if I was going to laugh or cry. I think I'll walk away from this a better person."