HOUSTON — The carnival at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo can be a little overwhelming with its bright, flashing lights and loud music. It's especially challenging for kids with sensory sensitivities, like 3-year-old Mason.
Mom Jeannie Darcey says he usually wouldn't be able to spend a day at the Rodeo.
"When we’ve come for other events, he’s not able to participate because he just has meltdowns," says Jeannie.
For a few hours on Friday morning, the carnival’s lights and music were muted for Sensory Friendly Day, so kids like Mason can cruise along without being overstimulated.
"Without the lights and all the noise and everything, he’s able to participate and have so much fun," Jeannie says. "He’s enjoying it so much."
You don't have to take Jeannie's word for it. The smile spread across Mason's face while he's being the wheel of one of the rides says it all.
"So far, I think his favorite was the motorcycle. He liked holding onto the motorcycle," laughs Jeannie. "But he liked the pig and he liked the whale. He liked them all."
This is the second time RodeoHouston hosted Sensory Friendly Day. The first was in 2020.
"This is such a huge opportunity for this community and for the special needs community to come out and enjoy the rodeo," says Stacy Anderson, chairman of HLSR's Special Children's Committee. "I’ve had hundreds of emails from families that have said, ‘We’ve never been able to take our family to the rodeo.' So they’re actually getting a chance to come out and enjoy the show that we all love so much."
This year, volunteers manned the gates, offering up backpacks full of sensory friendly goodies, maps and a smile for families of special kids as they came in.
"I think it means everything," says Anderson. "I think the rodeo always does a good job of including everyone, but this is really giving everybody an opportunity."
It's an opportunity for kids like Mason to just be a kid.
"It’s so exciting," Jeannie says. "I wish there were more events like this. I’m so thankful the Rodeo has this, so thank y’all."
The Special Children's Committee also organizes the Top Hands Horse Show and Lil' Rustlers Rodeo.