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Zone Detente: promoting inclusivity at Festival International

Parenting: making Festival more inclusive
Posted at 4:00 AM, Apr 27, 2023

Jenee Naquin said finding ways to connect with her 8-year-old son can be a challenge.

"There's a divide in the generations," Naquin said. "What is fun for one generation and what is fun for the other. This was that common ground."

That common ground came in the form of Zone Detente or The Chill Zone.

I was a place the Naquin's son found the day before; excited to take his mother inside and show her all that he discovered.

"So, when I got to experience it with him, I completely understand why he would love it," Naquin said. "I too like it. It was nice that it was a closed in space, like a cocoon because you felt separate, in your own space, and I loved how well designed it was."

But what Naquin remembered most was the time she was able to spend with her son.

"I can just remember lying on the floor in that bean bag chair and we were making silly noises at one another," Naquin said. "It's one of those few memories that I can pull back on and say, 'that was so sweet.'It was just pure hanging out together."

"Those moments that we treasure," I said.

"Yes, I'm really cherishing it right now," Naquin said.

It was stories like Naquin's that keep Dave and Ashley Pilon going.

Creators of the Beluga Project, the Chill Zone is their brain child.

"To have a place to go that is safe, relaxing, a chance to rest and then return to festival...it was awesome to see," Dave said.

For years, Dave an Occupational Therapist and Ashley a Speech Therapist worked to get a sensory area at festivals across Acadiana.

In 2022, Zone Detente debuted at Festival--the couple overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

"It really provided this amazing place for people to gather and ended up being more than we intended," Ashley said. "We intended as a speech and occupational therapists we had our kids in mind, the kids that come to see us and have sensory needs. What we found is that so many of us have sensory needs, even adults."

The Pilon's hope The Beluga Project and Zone Detente continue to open up the conversation about sensory, while promoting inclusivity.