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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review

An Arts Festival for Very Special Youths

May 13, 1999

LOS ANGELES — The downtown Music Center Plaza was transformed into a major center of child-oriented fun Wednesday for the 20th annual "Very Special Arts Festival."

On an outdoor stage, boys and girls from special education classes were dancing the jitterbug.

Just across the way, parents helped youngsters in wheelchairs sway their arms to music. Under a tent, children armed with crayons and glue made paper wind dragons as others waiting in line nearby shook hands with a giant, walking puppet.

Sponsored by the Music Center's Education Division in collaboration with the Los Angeles Unified School District and County Office of Education, the festival attracted 4,000 people for a celebration of the creative achievements of young people with mental and physical disabilities.

Throughout the weeks and months leading up to the festival, special education students work on art projects or performances at their schools to showcase at the event, which this year had a theme of "Flight."

Organizers said the event also helps non-disabled students see those with disabilities as not so different from themselves.

This year was the first time the festival, usually on a Saturday, was held on a weekday, organizers said. Tim McNulty, director of the Los Angeles County Office of Special Education, was worried the scheduling change might lead to a drop in attendance.

"I'm very happy to say I was totally wrong," he said. "This is overwhelming."

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