After Fair Board Access Battle, "Bacon" Fails To Make
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 17, 2003
BARTOW, FLORIDA--After he won the battle to participate in the Polk County Youth Fair's livestock show, Justin Kelley has been disqualified because his pig "Bacon" is under-weight.
Bacon, who was hit with a stomach virus in late January, weighed in at 216 pounds -- just four pounds below the weight needed to qualify for the event.
"I was disappointed," said Kelley, 17.
"We thought we were going to be close, but we'd be there. That just didn't happen," the Lake Wales High School senior explained. "But that's what this program is all about. It's a business, and this time, ours didn't cut it."
Kelley gained national attention in January after the fair board decided to ban him from the competition because he has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair or walker. Board members said their decision was based on "liability concerns", that he might get hurt during the event.
Local newspapers were overwhelmed by feedback supporting Kelley and condemning the board. Several students threatened to boycott the event if Kelley wasn't allowed to be involved.
Florida's Agriculture Commissioner and several state lawmakers spoke up in Kelley's defense. The state's Attorney General warned the fair board that they would be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act if they didn't let the teen participate.
Following two private meetings, the board decided to allow Kelley's entry.
"It absolutely was worth it because other kids have been turned down before, and maybe the board will think twice before turning down somebody else because they have a disability," Justin's mother, Tammy Kelley, said this weekend.