LATHROP – Michael Navarrette is a big Star Wars fan.
On Friday morning, the 7-year-old from August Knodt School in Weston Ranch was thrilled to come across a Clone trooper (Stephen Chincarini), Sand trooper (Daniel DeLaCruz), and an Imperial officer (Ivy Nevins) from a galaxy far, far away at Special Access Day at Dell’Osso Farms.
“The reaction when people see us is always positive,” said DeLaCruz, who is a member of the local 501st Legion.
While this international group was initially founded to unite costumers with a penchant for Star Wars villainy, DeLaCruz and others indicated their real-world mission is that of goodwill.
The 501st chapters or garrisons often look to brighten the lives of the less fortunate.
“The kids will usually smile when they see us,” DeLaCruz said.
He added that his 501st received a Special Access Day invitation from the Manteca Sunrise Kiwanis.
This day before the Manteca Pumpkin Fair is devoted to those special needs or developmentally disabled. Included are children and adults, ranging in age from 18 months to 80 years old.
According to the Manteca Sunrise Kiwanis, this event usually draws an estimated 1,200 to 1,600 from over 50 facilities servicing San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Amador, Tuolumne, Merced counties.
This marked the 25th year for Special Access Day.
Among those in attendance was Valley CAPS instructor Janie Guerrero and several of her consumers – namely, Ms. Angela, Mr. Tony and Mr. Ed – from the day program for adults with developmental disabilities.
She led them in the direction of the Pumpkin Blasters.
“We came here last year and it was closed,” Guerrero recalled.
No disappointment here this year. In fact, Ms. Angela, who is confined to a wheelchair, found great joy at firing the Pumpkin Blaster, striking a miniature pumpkin directly into the windshield of one of the newest targets.
“It was fun,” said Mr. Tony.
Added Guerrero: “We had a blast.”
Nicole Unrein and her seventh- and eighth- grade special education students from Woodward School took time out for lunch. The menu consisted of hot dogs with all the trimmings made possible by Carl’s Jr., Frito-Lay, St. Joseph’s Medical Center and Sierra Springs Water.
“We did the corn maze earlier and got lost just once,” she said.
Special Access Day – sponsors were Dell’Osso, Storer Coachway, J.R. Simplot Co., Manteca Ambulance, Kiwanis Club of Stockton, Kiwanis Club of Greater Lodi, and the Manteca Senior Center – also included bounce houses, train rides, go-carts, a petting zoo, and music and dancing, to name a few.
Jeff Hillstrom provided live entertainment for the lunch crowd and free pumpkins were made available via the generosity of the Manteca Pumpkin Growers Association.
In addition, those attending received Trick and Treat bags filled with goodies provided by the likes of Arvin Home Systems, Wal-Mart, Sierra Office Supply & Printing, Pentel of America, Golden Valley Federal Credit Association, California Milk Advisory board, and J&J Printing.
Dell’Osso Farms officially opens today and will go on through Halloween. More information can be obtained by logging on to www.pumpkinmaze.com.