The Dork of Deception, World's Tallest Hypnotist and Hawaiian fire dancers will join other acts for a day of magic, mysticism and, above all, inclusion next month at The Mystic Faire of Gettysburg.
The festival — a kind of Renaissance/fairie/magic celebration — will make its debut at the Battlefield Harley-Davidson on Sept. 12. The Focus Foundation, a nonprofit that helps adults with autism and other special needs, is organizing the event to raise money for the foundation's cause while providing family- and special needs-friendly entertainment.
Planned acts include hypnotists, magicians, dancers and a puppeteer, as well as musical entertainment ranging from folk to classic rock. Workshops will teach festival-goers skills like bagpiping, spray paint art and juggling, and vendors will be stationed throughout the property.
Nick Mudgett, president of Focus Foundation, said he hopes this year's event will be the start of something big.
Mudgett founded the nonprofit foundation in January with the hope of providing resources for people like his brother, Tyler, who is on the autism spectrum.
While Pennsylvania offers many resources for children with special needs, he said, it often leaves many to fend for themselves after their 21st birthdays.
His father, Bill Mudgett, founded Focus Behavioral Health in 2010 to help address this issue. Mudgett took his father's idea a step further in creating the independently run nonprofit, which helps people who do not qualify for state-funded resources, as well as individuals looking for extra support.
"There are a lot of people in the state of Pennsylvania who need help and can't get it," he said.
The all-volunteer foundation hosts workshops and social events throughout the state to help people with special needs learn skills and meet people with similar experiences as them. They might learn how to perform everyday activities, like brushing their teeth or budgeting, or practice appropriate responses to social situations.
Mudgett estimates the group has touched about 150 people through its outreach programs so far. Foundation volunteers said they hope events like the Mystic Faire will help that number grow.
"We need this to be huge," said Joe Ciccone, the foundation's outreach and marketing director.
The services Focus offers are much needed for Pennsylvania's residents with special needs, said David Kot, founder of Face Value Comics.
Kot, of York, is on the autism spectrum and created what he says is the first comic book to feature a hero with autism. He met the Mudgetts while hosting a local chapter meeting of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and spoke at the Focus Foundation's first major fundraiser, a pancake breakfast, earlier this summer.
Much of the news people read about autism paints a bleak picture, he explained. It focuses on the costs of raising a child with special needs or other negative impacts autism can have.
But people with autism can often live independent, happy and productive lives, Kot said, provided they have the right tools.
Because the state's resources are limited, he believes groups like The Focus Foundation can help fill the gap.
"They help point people in a more positive path," he said.
If you go
What: Mystic Faire of Gettysburg
When: Sept. 12, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Battlefield Harley-Davidson, 21 Cavalry Field Road, Straban Township
Cost: $10 for adults and $5 for children if purchased online; $15 and $8 at the gate