Reporting Rachel Slavik
FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) – Everyone has a favorite food, ride or attraction at the Minnesota State Fair. But one Twin Cities’ teen can never get enough of the River Raft Ride.
Jarek Belle-Isle has cerebral palsy, which affects his muscle coordination. The condition prevents him from going on most of the rides in the midway, but the River Raft Ride has allowed him to take part in the fair fun.
“It’s so much fun and I enjoy it so much,” Jarek said.
He found his fair favorite when his mother, Tamara, realized it was one of the only options for a 2 year old with CP.
“Everybody here is super nice. They lifted Jarek out of his wheel chair, set him down,” Tamara said.
Sixteen years later, Jarek is still spinning and splashing. Since he needs help to balance, his mother is always along for the ride.
“It’s ear-to ear-grinning. He enjoys it every time,” she said.
One trip down the river is never enough for Jarek, who’s known to stay in his seat for the entire day.
“I think one time I begged him to stop and he said, ‘Two more times, mom, two more times,” she said.
Non-stop fun can be an expensive venture at $4 a ride, but Jarek has become much more than just a customer, according to Joshua Mader – who’s family runs the ride.
“He’s totally considered a family friend,” Mader said.
The workers now let Jarek float until he’s had his fill. And he isn’t the only one getting something out of this deal.
“It brings a smile to my face,” Mader said.
It’s hard not to smile when witnessing Jarek’s pure joy. It’s no wonder why so many don’t want the ride to end.
“It brightens up the whole world, I would say,” Tamara said.
Each year, Jarek brings the staff treats and they give him a River Raft Ride T-shirt.
Tamara said Jarek has been on the ride more than 4,000 times.