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The Go Outside Festival showcases outdoor activities for people (and dogs) of all ages.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Kasey Hale knew if she hesitated she wasn’t going to do it. So that’s why she was the first person in her group to run and jump off a 30-foot lift into the night sky and free-fall into a giant air bag in the middle of River’s Edge Sports Complex.
The Big Air Bag jump was the hit of the night at the Go Outside Festival in Roanoke. In its third year, the event has grown exponentially in both size and grandeur. Friday was opening night for the festival, which brought in hundreds of outdoors enthusiasts as well as some general adventure seekers, like Hale.
One of this year’s new events, the Big Air Bag Jump takes people up on a lift and allows them to jump Hollywood-stunt style — or ungraciously flailing — into a massive inflatable air cushion on the ground. Impossible to miss, there was a line to try it out for most of the evening.
“My eyes just got this big when I got up there,” said Joshua Mitchell, making a shocked face, “I’m scared of heights.”
But once his friend jumped off, he knew he had to do it.
The active nature of the air bag jumping is a common theme at the Go Fest, which was created to promote the region’s recreational activities and outdoor organizations.
The booths of vendors are not just handing out paper advertisements. Their ads are interactive, from obstacle courses to kayaking to tossing Huffy bicycles as far as possible. People are kept moving.
Virginia Tech student Lauren Cantwell showed up at the festival to represent the National Outdoor Leadership School, a nonprofit organization teaching outdoor skills for the wilderness.
Although it’s based in Wyoming, she said she hoped their booth at the Go Fest would attract some other hikers, mountaineers, climbers or even medical students to the program.
Cantwell said the two kinds of people coming by on Friday night were college students and parents looking for outside activities for their kids to take part in over the summer.
“This is an amazing outdoor area, so there’s lot of opportunity for that,” she said.
Even as the sun went down and cooler temperatures set in, people continued to trickle into the festival, both two-legged and four-legged.
“One of the things we found out from the first one is that people really enjoyed a place they could take their dogs,” said Pete Eshelman , a director at the Roanoke Regional Partnership and event organizer.
At the Go Fest, dogs don’t just roam around with their humans, but they can take part in some of the action as well. One of last year’s most popular events, the Ultimate Air Dogs, returns for all the pooches not afraid of some water. It’s a friendly competition for man’s best friend to jump off a dock into a tub of water.
After their activities on Friday, some of the dogs got hungry and managed to sniff their way to the Pet Vet Roanoke Animal Hospital tent with their owners in tow to get some of the treats the clinic was handing out.
Pet Vet manager Nikki Childress was manning the treats with her sidekick Aries, a doting black Labrador.
“We’ve done a lot of business tonight,” she said, impressed with the crowd and additional activities at Go Fest this year. She said since the Pet Vet, which she described as a family-vet type of practice, has been in Roanoke for just three years so they are still trying to get some exposure in the region — and dog treats seemed to be helping.
Humans had treats of their own. There was some beer, some food and some live music to with everything.
“One of Roanoke’s greatest assets is the outdoors,” said Eshelman. He said his office is trying to help brand the natural aspects that encapsulate the region and turn it into tourism dollars and even create more local pride.
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