FARMINGTON, Minn. (FOX 9) - As an 11-year-old with autism, going to a parade is usually off the table for Zachary LaCourt, but soon he'll be able to attend one without risking a meltdown.
"I know that my son is triggered very quickly by loud noises and alarms,” said Marissa LaCourt, Zachary’s mom. “He kind of needs warning that those alarms are going to come up. If he doesn't, they tend to make him upset. He withdraws into himself."
Every year, Farmington throws a parade as part of its annual Dew Days Festival in June. So this year, Marissa LaCourt suggested the local American Legion Post sponsor a sensory-friendly zone, so people with autism and veterans with PTSD can enjoy the festivities as well.
"This might be their first event,” said Commander Doug Taube of American Legion Post 189. “If it’s an adult and they have PTSD and haven't been able to come to a city function like this, it’s a big deal."
For the last three blocks of the parade, participants will not use their sirens or horns. A local company has also donated 1,600 pairs of disposable earplugs for visitors who sit in that section. Organizers believe the quiet zone will be the first of its kind at a parade in the state.
"I think this is going to put Farmington on the map," said Jake Cordes of the Dew Days planning committee. "I want Dew Days to be an inclusive event that anybody can come and enjoy."
Zachary's mom hopes the parade will end up being the first of many for her son.
"He's going to be able go to a community event with his peers and actually participate,” said Marissa LaCourt. “I'm excited to see him interact with his friends. I'm probably going to cry."
If the sensory-friendly zone goes well for Dew Days, organizers hope other communities across the state will follow suit for their parades.
The parade takes place June 15 at 5 p.m.