A quiet day at the fair

AT: John W.C. Robinson

In the summer of 2022, I visited the Ohio State Fair to get some photos for Amusement Today. I planned my day up there as part of my route to another event, and just picked the day that worked best with my schedule.


I got there early, but the fair was open and the midway was operating. However, you would not be able to tell that unless you looked closely to see people on the active rides or heard their shouts of joy. Though operating, the midway was quiet with no music, no bells, no flashing lights and no barkers over the loudspeaker. For someone used to the over-the-top nature of an amusement midway, everything felt slightly off.

That’s when I discovered that this morning was dubbed a “sensory friendly morning” for the Ohio State Fair. All of the sounds and capitvating lights of the midway were shut down to allow guests with autism and other sensory needs to enjoy all the fair had to offer, without the added stress and difficulty that the normal eccentric midway can deliver to those guests.

In all honesty, despite trying to be someone who’s considerate of other’s realities — and someone who’s spent their entire life along a midway of some sorts — the need for such days escaped me until just that very moment. Although the all-quiet and subtler midway seemed an abomination to me, it also put into perspective just how differently those with sensory needs take in what I would consider a normal midway. What was now “too quiet” for me is “too much” for them on any other day.

I’m grateful to be part of an industry that saw this need and found a way to ensure a day of fun for those who would have had to steer clear otherwise. I’m grateful that in an industry that prides itself on being over-the-top, we have found the value — and the heart — in reining it in once in a while. It’s wonderful to find a new way to put a smile on someone’s face.

This article appears in the  FEBRUARY 2023 issue of Amusement Today.
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