WHO: FestAbility, a first-year event to celebrate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in a daylong celebration for the disability community and their allies.
WHEN: July 27, 2018
WHAT: Held at the Missouri History Museum this eight hourlong event celebrated the St. Louis disability community. FestAbility commemorates the ADA anniversary in a day filled with accessible fun for all abilities. Hosted by nine different organizations in partnership with iHeartMedia and the Missouri History Museum, Festability was a daylong event filled with dancing, singing and comradery. Starkloff Disability Institute, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis, The Center for Head Injury Services, Variety, St. Louis Arc, MindsEye, Paraquad and Special Olympics Missouri partnered together to bring this event to life.
From inside activities, accessible tours of the Missouri History Museum and food trucks, to main stage entertainment, no amount of rain could put a damper on this event. Each organization had the opportunity for a spotlight where they were able to share their mission and how they strive to create a more inclusive space for the disability community.
In addition to these spotlights, groups such as Totally Awesome Girls Group (TAGG), Different Dynamics, The Disability Project and two Down Syndrome Association Rock Bands performed. These groups showcased their talent and engaged the crowd. Different Dynamics shared their love for music and showed the audience how they make music accessible to children with special needs through adaptive music programming. The Disability Project rapped an informative piece to remind people that individuals with disabilities aren’t limited and that they experience the world the same as anyone else. They shared the message that being different is okay and wanting to say hi is always welcome. The Disability Project aims to spread the message of inclusivity and to represent different abilities, ages and ethnicities.
A sweet ending to the day was when Special Olympics Missouri showed up and the athletes were given the opportunity to present the medals they earned at the USA games in Seattle earlier this summer. They shared their experience at the games and stayed to celebrate with the crowd.
WHY: The American’s with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of life: jobs, school, transportation, etc. Although this is now law, individuals with disabilities are often misrepresented, or not represented at all. FestAbility’s mission was not only to give individuals with disabilities a voice but to empower them in celebration. The love and excitement was contagious, and we couldn’t help but smile as kids and adults danced and sang, being unapologetically themselves. Being able to give a voice and a platform to the organizations involved and the more than 3,000 people that showed up is why we do what we do.
HOW WE HELPED: Event planning assistance and production. Utopia provided a DJ, emcee, sound, video and event planning assistance. We attended all planning meetings and helped the FestAbility planning committee come up with ideas to engage the audience and to be inclusive of the entire community that attended the event. Even though rain threatened the day, our music never stopped and some of the kids never got off the stage. To be able to dance and spread joy to everyone at FestAbility was an indescribable feeling and we are already counting down the days for the second annual event.
“If I could give Utopia more than 5 stars I would, I connected with Utopia about two months before my event and they heard about my mission, vision and goals with the event and immediately got to work helping us plan the most successful first year of an event I could have ever imagined. They weren’t just a company we hired to do a job, the Utopia team came in and truly became a family to the rest of our event planning committee, they attended our planning meetings, they got to know our team, they supported our goals and our mission and they truly created an environment for my event I do not believe I could have replicated without them. Their energy is empowering and contagious and I would recommend them to anyone planning an event of any size.”
-Jenna Baker, Creator of FestAbility
FINAL WORDS: FestAbility was more than a celebration of disabilities, it was a celebration for the entire community. It was an opportunity for St. Louis to come together through music, joy and friendship to celebrate one another of all abilities and all the incredible things that happen when we give each other a voice.
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