Mahoning Valley summer events adding sensory sensitivity spaces
Festival and parade season is right around the corner. Some popular events are making changes to their usual ways to include everyone.
In the Austintown Fourth of July Parade a small section from Fitzgerald Ave to Burkey Road will be a designated “quiet zone”. That means no loud sirens, horns, or flashing lights will happen in that stretch of area so that anyone that is overstimulated by those things can enjoy the parade.
The idea came from a local 11-year-old, Magnus, so that his friend won't have to wear headphones when they go to the parade together.
"I feel like he doesn’t get to immerse in a full experience into the parade,” Magnus said about his friend. “If I was wearing headphones I feel like it would really bother me. So, I want a zone where you don't have to wear headphones."
“Over the years I have noticed where there’s children or even adults wearing these headphones that help quiet the area and it’s never came to me, I never thought about it,” Bruce Shepas, the Austintown Township Parade chairman said. “So, this way more people, more children with Autism or Down Syndrome can attend our parade.”
The parade isn’t the only event adapting to include those with sensory sensitivities. The Mahoning Valley Irish Festival at Penguin City Brewing will have a neurodivergent tent.
“We have a hammock chair, we will have cushions that will go on the floor and then we’ll have soft lighting to go inside,” Shannon Lehn, Chairperson Mahoning Valley Irish Festival said.
The tent will also have fidget toys and bluetooth headphones.
“People will be able to adjust volume (on the headphones) and also be able to watch the entertainment as it's streaming,” Lehn said.
Something that Magnus’s mom, Meggan said will help her family.
“Having just a quiet chill space to come back to, connect would allow us to stay longer at an event and enjoy more activities because they have that reset time,” Meggan said.
Additionally, the Irish festival will be wheelchair accessible this year, since Penguin City brewing is replacing their gravel parking lot with pavement.
All the modifications are a way to make sure everyone can have fun this summer - just at their own pace.
The Austintown Fourth of July Parade will step off at noon on July 4 and the Mahoning Valley Irish Festival will be on July 21- 22 at Penguin City Brewing.