Community Built: Roanoke’s Go Fest proceeds are going into community fund

Roanoke, USA city in Virginia during spring with Mill Mountain iconic star during sunny day

It’s no secret that Roanoke is a hub for adventure, making it a favorite for travel, recreation, and living, and the perfect place to host the annual outdoor festival, The Anthem Roanoke GO Outside Festival (GO Fest). Though for many this year did not go exactly as planned, communities were driven to get creative in the ways they come together. 

The Roanoke Outside Foundation and Roanoke Parks and Recreation have not only ensured that GO Fest will be happening this weekend (Oct 16-18) by closely adhering to all CDC guidelines, they also made sure that it would give back to it’s community with a new program, Project Outside, all while doing what they do best—getting people to go outside and play.  

“We really had to do our due diligence,” said Julia Boas, Events Director of Roanoke Outside Foundation. “We spent a lot of time talking with epidemiologists that worked for the city as well as their emergency services team to make sure that there wasn’t an aspect of it that we hadn’t considered.”

GO Fest will look a bit different this year. Instead of the 40,000 person free-for-all event, there will be a benefit concert, epic team challenge, gear raffles, and small-scale outings spread throughout the region. The festival  was originally created more than ten years ago to showcase the area’s impressive outdoor community and quickly turned into an economic driver. The best part is all proceeds this year will benefit Project Outside

“Our focus under Roanoke Outside is multifaceted but to boil it down, it’s really, how do we make us a better outdoor community,” said Pete Eshleman, Director of Roanoke Outside Foundation. “Part of that is we’re constantly doing gap analysis,looking at what’s missing and filling this void. Our ultimate goal is how do we make the outdoors more accessible, how do we make it more equitable, and how do we make it more user friendly.”

Project Outside, originally created by the Roanoke Outside Foundation, is a community fund made possible by regional businesses, governments, and passionate individuals to support outdoor capital improvement projects, maintain outdoor access, and help launch and support businesses in the outdoor sector through the global pandemic. 

“It really pivoted to, how can we raise money to protect the places that we all like to play,” Eshlemen said. “Invest in them to make sure that assets are being taken care of and not loved to death, invest in new outdoor capital infrastructure projects that are down the road. For example a river kayak park or bike park or build new river access points to support outdoor related businesses, especially those that have been severely impacted by COVID. That’s what led us down the path of coming up with Project Outside and shifting everything to raising money for that.”

Nearly 70% of Go Fest’s sponsors, who usually do larger-scale things on-site for the festival, pivoted that money to leverage it for Project Outside as well as help put on the benefit concert in hopes to raise even more for the fund. The goal is to raise $100,000 this year and then to continue its growth in the years ahead. 

“We’re still being able to give back and build our assets in our community even when we can’t gather in person,” Boas said. “If we want to continue developing as an outdoor community we need to be willing to invest even more in our community strength. GO Fest is honored to be able to kick-off the fundraising efforts this year for Project Outside. It gives us hope and excitement for the  future during difficult times.” 

If there is a lesson to be learned from it all, it is to never underestimate the power of community

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