Any local resident can rattle off a number of things to see in the Dells, but those without sight can also find entertainment and friendly vibes.
A group of 11 blind friends from Illinois took a late August trip to the Dells and were impressed with the friendly and opening environment they found. When the Dells Events caught up with the group at their motel – Fitzgerald’s Motel, 530 Broadway – the group consensus consisted solely of praise.
“I think what impresses me the most about everybody at the Dells — and especially here at the motel Eugene (Tokarczyk) and Margaret (Gewont) (the husband and wife owners of Fitzgerald’s) are just wonderful — they’re the most wonderful people,” said tourist group member Terri Kral. “Everybody extends themselves. We have had just an amazing time because of everybody. Sometimes we need assistance, and they’re more than ready to show us a good time.”
The travelers met each other through their involvement with the Illinois Council of the Blind.
“We became friends and have hung around together for quite a long time now – 15 to 20 years I’d say,” said Debbie Watson. And the travelers confirmed, yes, they still all like each other.
The majority of the group hails from the Chicago area, with others coming from as far away as Peoria. For some it was the second trip, as the group previously visited the Dells in 2009, but many were experiencing things for the first time. De facto group leader Alice Bledsoe spent months planning the whole trip with her brother Wayne and Gayle Workman to make sure the group could access a variety of activities.
While it was a vacation, they didn’t spend their time lying around sipping cocktails. The group visited many attractions, including Circus World – where they road elephants, Mt. Olympus, Noah’s Ark, The Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, Dells Army Ducks and more. Every place seemed quick to lend a helping hand.
“Tommy Bartlett – they chose exhibits we could touch and hear,” said Gayle Workman.
Noah’s Ark went above and beyond for the group by having staff available to escort each person around the park.
“They were fantastic,” Kral said.
Dalton Schroeder, Noah’s Ark marketing intern, helped out as one of the escorts for the Noah’s Ark trip. He said the experience was very humbling for him, and he was glad the park could help everyone enjoy themselves.
Despite a full schedule, the group seemed to possess little desire to take a break. Shopping trips, restaurant visits and theme park rides packed the groups schedule the entire week.
“People plan vacations to take a rest,” Gewont said. “Rest is not laziness. Rest is serenity and rest is peace. And that is what they did.”
The group made it a point to give appreciation to Tokarczyk and Gewont for helping on their trip.
“They were at the train station to meet us,” said Jim Kral. “And if we can’t get a cab, (Tokarczyk) was right there to pick us up and take us back.”
Everyone agreed the hardest part would be leaving, as no one had any desire to go.
“They are independent despite the fact they can’t see,” Gewont said. “They enjoy being in the Dells and it has so much to offer they want to visit everything.”
She said the atmosphere at her hotel is perfect for groups looking for a friendly environment.
“It is like it was a long time ago, when people shared their feelings about everything – my life, your life,” she said.