Sensory-friendly mornings at the State Fair of Texas are back for a fifth time this year.
Held every Wednesday over the fair’s 24-day duration, the mornings are designed for people with sensory sensitivities or anyone who experiences discomfort in settings with loud noises and flashing lights.
“The State Fair of Texas is so excited to welcome people back this year from all walks of life,” spokeswoman Taylor Austin said. “We’re always looking for ways to learn more and be more inclusive and accessible.”
On Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., fair officials make adjustments across the fairgrounds to make the experience more accessible to people with sensitivities. This year’s sensory-friendly mornings are Oct. 4, 11 and 18.
People with autism, people who suffer from migraines and people with post-traumatic stress disorder are among those who tend to take advantage of the program, Austin said. However, these mornings are open to the public — not just people with a specific disability or disorder.
The program launched in 2018 after the fair reached out to the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards to learn about changes it could implement to assist people with disabilities.
Some of these changes include turning off the blinking lights and music across the fairgrounds. Officials also reduce the volume of Big Tex’s voice so as to not startle visitors as much.
“Folks can still have the experience of hearing Big Tex, but he’s not going to be amplified as much as he would on a normal day,” Austin said.
Additionally, every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m., the Midway — home to the Texas Star Ferris wheel and other attractions — will turn off its usual lights and sounds.
This year, volunteers with Christian nonprofit group Joni and Friends will be available to provide additional support to those who need it on Oct 4.
“Oftentimes, a family that’s coming with a child who has a disability, they might come with some extra things — whether it’s equipment, whether it’s a motorized wheelchair — just having that extra set of hands can be super helpful,” Austin said.
The State Fair also has a suggested list on its guided itinerary of activities “that will be a bit easier on the eyes and ears” for people with sensory issues. These include the Children’s Aquarium, the Texas Discovery Gardens and the fair’s new lagoon exhibit, which features 10 life-size dinosaurs.
The itinerary also maps out quiet zones should families need to get away from the noise.
“We want to have places sprinkled across the grounds where folks feel comfortable to go and know that they can just step away from some of the hustle and bustle,” she said.
Wednesdays typically see the fewest amount of fairgoers — around 80,000 visitors in years past. On a typical weekend day, the fair usually welcomes more than 100,000 people.
Wednesdays also are one of the fair’s regular discount days, when visitors can donate five canned food items to the North Texas Food Bank for $5 admission.
Austin added she hopes families are able to take advantage of these days and know that their needs will be accommodated.
“Our employees know that we have sensory-friendly mornings every Wednesday, and they know to be kind … and be patient with folks,” Austin said. “And just make sure that they go the extra mile to give everyone a great experience at the State Fair of Texas.”