HARRINGTON — The Delaware State Fair has always been a magical week for Jarrett Butler, even from the seat of a wheelchair.
However, it is the unique vantage point from that seat where Jarrett saw room for improvement to further enhance the experience at the state fairgrounds for those with physical disabilities and reduced mobility.
Mr. Butler, a 2020 graduate of the John S. Charlton School in Camden-Wyoming, has worked tirelessly over the past two years in advocating for lawmakers to acquire state funding to make improvements.
His work paid off in a big way on Thursday afternoon as Delaware State Fair officials unveiled not only an ADA-compliant companion bathroom for disabled individuals and mothers of small children, but also an environmentally friendly handicap trolley to help people with motorized scooters and wheelchairs be able to move around the fairgrounds more easily.
“The reason I really wanted to be here was just so that I could help people who develop mental and physical disabilities,” Mr. Butler said. “I would also like to say that the fair is more important to me … every time I come down here, every time I come down, it’s like I’m coming to my home away from home.
“I love coming down here and I hope you all enjoy it, too. Enjoy the fair.”
Mr. Butler was presented with a certificate and Ken Clark, 1st vice president of the state fair, unveiled a wall plaque that adorns the side of the new large bathroom dedicated to the advocacy efforts of the determined young man.
Janet Butler, his mother, was extremely excited at what her son, along with their representative, Rep. Lyndon Yearick, were able to accomplish.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “Me and my family have gone to the fair forever. I’ve been here since I was 4 years old and my whole family lives and breathes fair. My brother shows (animals), I volunteer at the (Delaware State) Grange, and so does Jarrett.
“So, whenever we came down it was always something very difficult to find a place to help clean him up and usually what I would do is go and hide in the girl’s shower and have my daughter watch to make sure nobody was coming.
“Then Jarrett decided he wanted to advocate to get accompanied bathrooms so there would be someplace ... we’re not the only ones that do this. None of these people had a really good place to be able to freshen up, so Jarrett decided on his own, without even me, that he wanted to advocate to get handicap bathrooms for the fair for people to be able to do this.”
Ms. Butler added, “He also wanted a trolley that would be able to fit a motorized wheelchair for people to be able to get transported around the fair because it’s very difficult getting on and off those (traditional) trolleys.”
Mr. Butler made a speech to both houses of the state legislature for Delaware to get them to advocate to acquire funding to the ADA-compliant companion bathrooms as well as the new handicap-accessible trolleys.
It was Rep. Yearick, who brought the fair’s leaders and the Butler’s together.
Rep. Valerie Longhurst was captivated by Mr. Butler’s presentation, his commitment, his tenacity and willingness to get something done. She requested the funding for the state fair projects and even requested that one of the transportation vehicles be named after him.
“Jarrett is somebody who shows that one person can make a positive difference when he or she believes in something,” Rep. Yearick said. “In this process. he was thoughtful, he was deliberate, and most importantly, Jarrett wanted to help others where he saw those areas for improvement.
“Jarrett Butler made a great experience at the state fair an even better experience — a better experience for everyone with disabilities, without disabilities, and Jarrett brings out the very best in individuals to make a difference not for himself, but for others to enjoy the great state fair.”
Bill DiMondi, general manager of the state fair, said people often like to complain about some things they don’t care for at the fair, many of them trivial.
However, when the leaders of the state fair heard Mr. Butler’s plea, they listened intently and realized that the young man had a valid point.
“On very rare occasions is the fair ever presented with criticism, coupled with a marvelous plan and accompanied by a well thought out implementation plan,” Mr. DiMondi said. “Sometimes an institution like the fair needs to hear from someone who has an entirely different perspective on things.”
It turned out that Mr. Butler’s perspective from the seat of his wheelchair was enough to make a couple of positive improvements for disabled individuals wanting to experience the excitement of the fair.