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Big day at the carnival opens new world for special customers


Like most 6-year-olds, Jimmy McVeigh, of Severn, was having a blast at the Big Glen Burnie Carnival yesterday -- riding the rides, eating ice cream and playing games.

But for Jimmy, this year's carnival was special. It was the first one in which he was allowed on the little airplanes, the antique cars and the carousel. Jimmy, who is blind, deaf and has cerebral palsy, had been banned from the rides in the past.

Yesterday, he and dozens of other disabled children and adults were able to enjoy a special day at the carnival compliments of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association, which opened the carnival grounds early for two hours, Shaw & Sons Inc., dozens of local businesses and civic groups and hundreds of volunteers.

"I think this is so great," said Brenda McVeigh, Jimmy's mother. "He's having a great time."

Mrs. McVeigh said Jimmy, who does not have use of one arm and leg, usually can't go on the rides unless she can sit next to him for support. "And they usually won't let me go on," she explained.

"This is so nice to have a day just for them," said Sandra Johnson of Odenton, who's 12-year-old son, Chester, also is blind, deaf and has cerebral palsy. "Everything is for free. Even the parking. This is really special for them."

From 10 a.m. to noon, The GBIA opened the carnival grounds to all disabled residents and their families. The carnival normally opens at 7 p.m.

Local vendors donated food and prizes, non-profit groups set up their booths and Shaw & Sons brought in a staff of 30 to run most of the rides.

Rides that staff members thought too dangerous weren't in operation.

But the Li'l Scrambler was scrambling, the Ferris Wheel was turning and the Rok-O-Plane was spinning its occupants around and around.

Severn Stables even brought up ponies for free rides.

The long-running Glen Burnie Carnival held it's first special day last year to test the waters, said GBIA President Muriel Carter. "We didn't advertise it much because we weren't sure how it would turn out," she explained.

But after having a successful event last year, GBIA sent invitations this year to schools and organizations that work with disabled children and adults and put notices in local newspapers.

About 300 people turned out, she estimated, and all seemed to be having a great time.

"Now if all of our volunteers would just stop crying, it would be great," she said.

GBIA got the idea for the special carnival from Ralph Shaw, owner of Shaw & Sons, whose friend has a mentally retarded daughter who could not attend the carnival at night.

The friend said his daughter was bothered by all the lights, noise and people.

Dennis Gilli, public relations director for Shaw & Sons, said Mr. Shaw got together with GBIA members and they decided to host the annual event.

Fifteen-year-old Melanie Bougourd, of Pasadena, who is mentally retarded, was back with her parents for the second year in a row.

She stopped on her way to the pony rides to show off the prizes she won -- a stuffed chick and a small plastic deer. She was especially proud of the neck full of plastic leis she had won at the penny toss.

So what if volunteers had walked the dishes over to the rail to give her a better shot? It didn't matter. The prizes were just as sweet.

"She loves it," said her mother, Sharon Bougourd. "This is so nice for handicapped kids. All the people have been really friendly and helpful."

"It does my heart good to be here and see them all enjoy themselves," said Sharon Hein, one of dozens of volunteers who put in extra hours to make the event happen. "I took time off from work to do this."

Several parents said the special day allowed them to bring children or elderly parents in wheelchairs, something they would not attempt at night because of the throngs of people.

Roberta Forrest, of Millersville, who uses a wheelchair, said she comes to the carnival with her family every year but normally sits in a corner out of the way. "At night, it's just too crowded. People push you and trample you.

"This year, I've gone on all the rides," she said enthusiastically. "I'm very surprised they would do this. It's really something."

Other parents said they brought their children this year because they could play the games and go on the rides without feeling different.

"It's comfortable for her here," said Doris Dorsey, who's 13-year-old daughter, Sherry, has cerebral palsy. "She won't even throw the ring at the regular carnival because she's self-conscious."

Sherry was hard put to say what she liked best about the carnival.

But she sure did like the stuffed animals she won at the ring toss.

The Big Glen Burnie Carnival, an attraction since 1908, continues through Saturday. Hours are 7 to 11 p.m.

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