The annual “Special Day for Special People” at West Point Lake on Thursday drew its expected huge crowd and served as a last hurrah for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until the government reopens.
“If you ever come one time, you will come again,” said Joe Parmer of Publix, which is a major event sponsor. The grocery store provided lunch, snow cones and cotton candy.
The Special Day is in its 36th year and draws more than 900 special needs children and adults and local senior citizens to Rocky Point Beach for a day of fun. The event is geared to people who wouldn’t be able to get out to the park and see the lake on their own.
The day was filled with boat, hay and trolley rides, food and entertainment, including a bounce house provided by B&E Happy Hoppers of LaGrange. Sparky the Fire Dog, Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog also made appearances.
For a few U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rangers, it was their last day on the job until congress ends the stalemate and reopens the government. The corps began shuttering parks and day use areas on Monday, but kept the Special Day event on the calendar.
“It’s such an important event, we spend four or five months planning it,” Ranger Rocky Millenbine said. He is one of the rangers furloughed until further notice as of today.
Chief Ranger David Barr said six employees at the West Point Dam powerhouse and four in the visitor’s center office already have been furloughed with eight more expected to be sent home today. Five people will be left in the office.
Three Creeks Campground, Crossroads Park, Pyne Road Park, Highland Marina Resort and Southern Harbor all remain open.