By Patricia Beech
Organizers of the 2018 Manchester River Days have issued a challenge to other local festivals – find a way to include the disabled in your festival events and activities.
Festival coordinator JoAnn Hilderbrand, says the idea occurred to her after the Adams County Fair Board said “yes” to allowing disabled persons from Venture Production to participate in an animal showmanship program. “It was the first time it had been done and I thought it was just wonderful,” says Hilderbrand, who is also the CPR instructor for the Venture Production staff. “The disabled people from Venture Production all had 4-H mentors and they all got to participate in showing animals. It made me ask myself, what can we have at our own festival to include disabled people?” Hilderbrand said after some thought, she decided a pageant was a good possibility. She took her idea to Venture Production Program Manager, Carlee Crump.
“We took off and ran with JoAnn’s idea,” says Crump. “We reached out to the community through Facebook and young girls from across Adams County began donating prom and homecoming dresses for the Venture contestants to wear, and to keep.”
An enthusiastic full house turned out Thursday evening, Aug. 2 to watch as Don Bowles of C103 Radio emceed the River Days Queen Pageant as well as the first King and Queen pageant for disabled persons at the Manchester Community Building.
On a low-lit blue and white stage, with balloons shaped into an archway, Angelina Saunders of Manchester was crowned Queen of the River Days festival and McKynlee Ledesma, also of Manchester was named First Runner-Up. Second Runner-Up was Jaylee Denning and Third Runner-Up was Allison Fite.
Bowles then introduced each of the Venture Production contestants including: Darell Grooms, Andrea Spornhauer, Lexi Barr, T.J Liston, Chasity Glascock, Connie Riggs, Maria Sexton, Patty Lang, Keith Huffman, Kim Ward, Diana Penny, and Michael Bailey.
Bowles spoke briefly with each contestant while the judges made their final choices, amid much excitement, naming Michael Bailey and Maria Sexton as the first Manchester River Days Senior King and Queen. Patty Lang and Keith Huffman won First Runner Up and Kim Ward and Darell Grooms were named Second Runner up.
“I think it’s important to open up this kind of event to disabled persons,” said Hilderbrand when the pageant ended. “I’m challenging the other festivals – Peebles Old Timers Days, the Seaman Festival, the Winchester and Bentonville festivals – please put in some activity or event for disabled people whether it’s a pageant or something else, it’s important that we give everyone the opportunity