Fenton Freedom Festival includes special needs & family zone

Published: Jul. 4, 2019 at 4:43 PM EDT
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(07/04/19) - Parades are a fantastic way to celebrate the 4th of July, but for some, the chaos is too overwhelming.

One mid-Michigan parade is hoping to change that.

"We had a wonderful family in our community that came forward through our police chief, Bob Cairnduff, and told us how much they loved the festival, but it's very difficult for them when the firetrucks come through because that's a big part of a parade, very loud and noisy," Pat Lockwood said. Lockwood is the festival committee chair.

The committee discussed and for the first time in 29 years, they designated a quiet area at the beginning of the parade called the "Special Needs & Family Zone."

"My son here gets very anxious at parades. I think a lot of it is the noise. When they said there weren't going to be any sirens, I think it helped him a little bit. He still got a little anxious, but I think he enjoyed it a lot better with no sirens," Amanda Mogford, a Fenton mother, said.

Amanda found out about the area on Facebook, and she wasn't the only one who thought it was a good idea.

"I think it's amazing. I think it's great for kids, especially that are on the spectrum or have a sensory issue because it brings the families out. It makes it a lot less stressful for the parents, the kids, and everybody around them," Terri Bernelis, a Fenton mother, said.

Terri says this will be great for many years to come. For the event committee, it's all an effort to make celebrations like these fun for everyone.

"We're open to any new ideas that come forward, and we work really close. Our intent is to make everybody comfortable in Fenton in enjoying the parade, and it looks like that turned out very well. We're very proud of the people who came forward to do it. We're proud that we were able to do it this year," Lockwood said.

Zones likes these have already started at larger parades like the Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Pat hopes other parades also help promote a more inclusive culture.

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