Waukesha County Fair 'inclusive rides' day limits sensory components

With strobing lights and blaring music, carnival rides aren’t always welcoming to people with sensory concerns.

The Waukesha County Fair is making changes to ensure everyone has fun this year.

"I’ve been showing dairy cattle here for probably 10 years," said Ellie Szczech. "It’s going to be called the ‘Spectacular Showman’ show. It’s for individuals with needs to come and show an animal at the county fair."

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Szczech can’t wait to show off a project she’s been working on for the last year. She is the 2023 Fairest of the Fair, and her platform is inclusivity – inspired by her older brother, Benjamin, who has developmental delays.

"Back in 2016 and 2017 we had showed hogs. He had the opportunity to show then, and he just loved it," said Szczech.

Ellie Szczech and her brother, Benjamin

While kids with special needs get hands on-experience with animals inside the coliseum, there is another fair first happening outside.

"We’re looking at the sensory component. We all know rides are loud, there’s flashy lights, there’s all the music," said Chrissy Gluege, the fair's executive director.

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Gluege said 60 families have already signed up for reserved "inclusive rides." Music will be turned down, and lights will be turned off during a two-hour block set aside for people of all ages to enjoy.

"We have more new things this year than we ever have before, and we can’t wait for everyone to come and be a part of the 181st anniversary of the oldest county fair in the state," Gluege said.

Waukesha County Fair (2022)

Szczech said the changes mean a lot to families with special needs.

"He built so much confidence in the ring – going in and having all eyes on him and had support," said Szczech. "It was just great to see."

The Waukesha County Fair Fair runs July 19-23. 

More details

That inclusive rides day is Thursday, July 20. And anyone interested has to sign up by 4 p.m. Friday, July 14.

  • Rides will be open to special needs individuals during this time. With unique wristbands, the guardian and individual will be able to head to the front of the line.
  • To aid in sensory needs, any rides that can have strobe lights shut off, will, and music will be turned down or off.
  • Ride staff will take extra time and care to load rides with a guardian or caregiver allowed to ride with.

To sign up, call 262-544-5922 or email the Waukesha County Fair.