Final preparations are in the works for the fifth annual Special Needs Fall Festival on Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Evangelical Free Church, 2015 N. St. Joseph Ave.

The festival will feature fingernail painting, face painting, (temporary) hairspray coloring, cake walks, and horse and wagon rides. Attendees can play in bounce houses, go bobbing for treats, go bowling or play miniature golf. There will be jewelry making, pumpkin painting, balloon figures, sensory activities and more. Patrons will be able to borrow costumes, dress up and get pictures. Food and treats will be available, as well.

RuAnn Root, a parent of a child with disabilities and member of the organizing committee, said the event serves as an outreach for people with disabilities and their families. The event was designed to give people with special needs a place to have a safe holiday activity. Activities have been adapted to fit people with limited mobility or accommodate other disabilities.

New this year, organizers added storytelling, karaoke, dancing, a petting zoo and a display of vehicles used by the military, fire department and law enforcement.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve it and still meet the needs of the people who are going to come in and enjoy the day,” she said.

Last year, an estimated 600 people participated in the event. As word of the festival spreads, Root said, some past attendees have been traveling from other communities like York, Seward and Fullerton. Organizers are planning for 600-700 people this year.

Root said the five years of the event have shown how much the community of Hastings stands behind those with disabilities.

“People embraced this concept and were absolutely excited about hosting an event like this,” she said. “We’re excited to provide entertainment, as well as networking and support system for people so they can see they are not alone.”

Various organizations and individuals came together to organize the event including the Hastings Community Foundation, Goodwill Industries and The ARC of Adams-Clay County.

Root said organizers still are looking for volunteers to help operate the event, which needs about 60-80 volunteers every hour.

“It takes a lot of work and volunteers to put this together,” she said.

Anyone willing to volunteer for the event or seeking more information can contact the Evangelical Free Church at 402-463-1441 or evangelicalfree@hastingsefc.org.

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