Fun in the sun

Silver Spur Club member Lindsey Barnes escorts Mackenzie Wilkes, 6, of Shelton, on a horse ride at the Fairgrounds as part of the 39th annual Corey’s Day on the Farm. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Silver Spur Club member Lindsey Barnes escorts Mackenzie Wilkes, 6, of Shelton, on a horse ride at the Fairgrounds as part of the 39th annual Corey’s Day on the Farm.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

The pony rides were a huge hit. The tractor was fascinating. And within their first hour at Corey’s Day on the Farm, 20-month old twins Teddy and Nicky Somers petted all of the animals, said their mother Sue Somers.

“We’ll stay as long as they can keep going,” she said Monday morning in between chasing the boys around a fenced-off lawn where they paused only long enough to pet a goat or watch the big, green tractor roll by.

Corey’s Day on the Farm for Special Needs Children was in its 39th year Monday and Tuesday at the Fairgrounds.

“This is just a fabulous experience for these kids,” said Somers, a Kingston resident who learned about the event through the Holly Ridge Center in Bremerton which her twins attend.

Sue Somers, who has owned Cruise Holidays of Silverdale with her husband Alan for a dozen years, said she had not heard of Corey’s Day before.

It was the Somers’ first time visiting the animals, but it was the Corey family’s umpteenth time hosting special needs children and their loved ones.

It all started when Coleta and Nick Corey’s son Dan, then 8 years old, decided he wanted to bring his terrier-mix puppies to school. His special education classmates held the dogs clumsily, not knowing how to handle them, recalls Coleta.

On the drive home, she said, the Coreys thought, “’It’s a shame that our kids are around animals and those kids don’t even get to have a puppy.’”

So, the Coreys invited Dan’s classmates to their farm. Three of their five sons, Scott, 10, Colen 7, and Clint, 5, a future Rodeo Hall of Fame member, helped the special needs children ride the family’s ponies.

“They had such a good time so we thought we’d do it again next year,” Coleta said.

That first year, Corey’s Day on the Farm had 26 young visitors. But the event grew quickly and the Coreys expanded it to two days in the early 1970s. Toward the end of that decade, the annual tradition outgrew the Corey farm and moved into the Fairgrounds.

This week nearly 900 special needs children and their families and teachers came from all around Kitsap and as far away as Port Angeles and Shelton.

Some of the volunteers, more than 100 total, came from even further away.

The Coreys and their family friends have been putting on the event mostly for smiles.

“The kids just get such a kick out of everything,” Coleta said. “Everybody has a special thing that happened to them that made it worth their while to come.”

For Kurtis Barry, 15, of Olalla, Corey’s Day is a chance to help special needs children learn how to rope. Lasso in hand, he was throwing the loop around the metal animal stand-ins Monday morning, waiting for the next little cowboy or cowgirl to step up.

“It’s sort of a tradition for us now,” said Bo Segerman, 14, from South Prairie, Wash. “It’s good to see the smiles on kids’ faces when they’re roping.”

Both roping tutors said they have been volunteering at Corey’s Day on the Farm for as long as they can remember.

Bo’s father, Gary Segerman, was 10 when he first befriended Scott Corey.

“I was pretty much raised with the Corey family,” Gary Segerman said.

He, too, has been volunteering longer than memory can vouch for.

“Sometime during the two days something spectacular will happen,” he said.

There are plenty of stories the volunteers share with one another at the end of every Corey’s Day on the Farm, he said and remembered a little girl who had “shown no lick of emotion” her whole life — that is until Gary Segerman took her around the Fairgrounds on a horse ride and she grinned so much her mother started crying.

The event is definitely a “memory builder,” said Lori Berg of the Sequim Developmental Preschool. Attending for the third year, Berg had registered half of her 30 students to come out with their families.

“It kind of gives you the chills, everybody volunteering,” she said just outside the horse riding area.

Several of Coleta and Nick’s sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren were helping out both days this week. Coleta, the go-to person for anything from where to find water for the horses to when to start grilling the hot dogs for lunch, joked that her sons’ marriage licenses came with fine print — everyone in the family helps with Corey’s Day on the Farm.

Lylan Corey, 19, Scott’s daughter, has been at the event since she was born. This year she was in charge of all the designated riders who took kids around on horseback.

She said watching all the children have fun is her favorite reward.

“They never get to do this stuff unless they come here,” Lylan, a Klahowya Secondary School alumna, said. “And this is something that’s devoted solely to them.”

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