The City of Chattanooga is hosting the 11th Annual Go!Fest at the Chattanooga Zoo on Saturday, September 12th. The event, a free day at the zoo, is intended to raise awareness of disability and special needs in the community, and to promote bonding between community members of all ability levels. Visitors will be able to walk around the zoo and its captivating animal exhibits, stop by the many vendor and sponsor booths along the pathways, and attend exciting live events throughout the day.
The Go!Fest tradition started ten years ago with former Mayor Ron Littlefield, and during its run the event has been hosted along the riverfront, at the First Tennessee Pavilion, and most recently Chattanooga Zoo. The event has proven very popular with the local community, as the attendance shows: from an already high count of 8,000 visitors at 2011’s Go!Fest, last year’s attendance grew to 11,000 visitors, and that number may be expected to grow even more on Saturday.
This year’s Go!Fest is officially hosted by the Office of Mayor Andy Burke, with assistance from the Mayor’s Council on Disability and the City of Chattanooga Department of Youth and Family Development.16 Although much of the planning has gone into filling the day with entertainment for the community, the hosting staff is more enthusiastic about the event’s central mission of raising public awareness of the differently abled community.
Mayor Burke said that while “[a]nimal attractions and interactions abound …breaking boundaries and increasing disability awareness are at the heart of Go!Fest.”
Chris Brown, Executive Assistant with the Department of Youth and Family Development, cited the event’s slogan, “Living life without limitation,” and elaborated on the central goal: “[We] shine a light on people… [who aren’t] letting handicaps keep them from enjoying life. People in the community don’t understand that… [and we] want to make them aware that people with disabilities don’t let their disabilities keep them down [and] can do all the things that you can.”
Saturday’s events will be accessible to community members of all abilities. Adaptive sports, face painting, and other attractions like “Touch-a-Truck” (an exhibition of military, police, and other rescue vehicles) are on the day’s lineup next to live music events from local artists., Tand this year’s honorary guest, Special Olympics Gold Medalist Nicole Gonzales, will be showing off her talent at the shot put. Also, over forty vendors and sponsors are registered for the event, including the Chattanooga Aquarium, Carrabas, the American Heart Association, and even the MosNooga Squad of The 501st Legion Star Wars costumers. In addition, health services information and assistive technology resources for disabilities and special needs will be on display. With such an impressive list of attractions, performances, and exhibits, visitors will be hard pressed to find a dull moment this Saturday.
For Covenant students, Go!Fest provides a great opportunity to get to know the Chattanooga community better (plus a free pass to the zoo) and, with a lovely 77℉ forecast, promises to be a very enjoyable experience overall.
The Chattanooga Zoo is located downtown at 301 N Holtzclaw Ave, just east of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Though zoo parking is limited, visitors may park nearby and use the free shuttle running from Engel Stadium at 1130 E. 3rd St.
To keep up with this year’s Go!Fest or to stay in touch for next year, check out the Go!Fest official website at www.Go!Festchattanooga.org, or find Go!Fest on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Go!FestChattanooga. #iamgofest