County fair reverses decision barring disabled teen from show


Published: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 10:21 p.m.
BARTOW - A teen with cerebral palsy who was told he could not show his pig at a county fair will be able to do so.
The executive board committee of the Polk County Youth Fair, under pressure from state officials, reversed their initial decision denying Justin Kelley's request Thursday.
The move came after the board received a faxed letter from the office of State Attorney General Charlie Crist, urging them to comply with state and federal law. Crist threatened to act if they board did not comply.
"I'm not ashamed of what we did," Dabney Conner, attorney for the fair's board, said Thursday. "We aren't really bad folks, and we haven't run afoul of any law."
The board originally decided that Kelley, 17, couldn't participate in the fair because he's disabled, arguing it posed a liability for the fair.
When their decision became public, fair officials began receiving calls, many criticizing their decision. They board met Thursday afternoon with Kelley's family.
"Justin is going to be treated just like any other kid," Conner said after the meeting. "He's going to show his hog, he's going to control his hog, and he's going to be judged like anybody else."
The board decided to accommodate Kelley as needed, including assigning a student to assist him during the March fair.
"They did the right thing," Kelley said. "I just wish they had done it a little quicker."

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