August 2018 Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Courtesy of Zionsville Lions Club and submitted Since 1953, families from Zionsville and the surrounding communities have participated in the Zionsville Fall Festival’s lively festivities that include a carnival in Lions Park and an annual parade that marches down the historic bricks of Main Street in downtown Zionsville. The festival weekend, presented by Zionsville Lions Club, attracts over 20,000 people from all over Indiana and beyond. This year’s Zionsville Fall Festival begins Friday, September 7 and concludes Sunday, September 9. What some people may not realize is that the VIP (Very Important People) Carnival night that kicks off the Fall Festival on Friday night is designed to cater especially to families and caregivers who have members with special needs. The goal of the event is to provide special needs’ families with a friendly environment where “kids can be kids” and enjoy the American tradition of a carnival. The VIP Carnival is presented by the Zionsville Lions Club and HAWK Foundation and takes place in downtown Zionsville. It is totally free, so no additional financial burden is placed on the family/caregivers whose goal should be to simply enjoy a family night out. Zionsville Lions Club President Mike Moran, a resident of west Carmel, would like for families and caregivers of individuals with special needs from any community to come out and enjoy the carnival, especially if they have never experienced it before. “The whole community is welcome,” Moran said. “We want to make sure that the general public knows that the carnival is open for everyone that evening, but it is only free to VIPs and their families/caregivers. Our VIPs and their families/caregivers are asked to register online, and they will be given wristbands for entry and access to the carnival rides, games and free food that will be provided by Chick-fil-A that evening. We also have our volunteers on-hand who will be helping our VIPs with getting them on and off the rides. The event starts at 5 p.m., and the rides will open at 6 p.m.” Paul Dreier, Zionsville Lions Club member and HAWK Foundation founding board members, shared with us that the VIP Carnival continues to grow by 200-400 attendees each passing year. Last year, the VIP Carnival entertained 1,600 VIPs and their families/caregivers. “Some families drive longer than the event itself,” Dreier said. “We have people that come from Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio to attend this event.” With regards to the volunteers who come out to assist the VIPs that evening, Dreier mentioned the Zionsville Best Buddies group as being a highly visible group that comes out among other incredible volunteers that night. “The Zionsville Best Buddies group is the largest in the nation,” Dreier said. “The entire local Best Buddies group shows up to volunteer at the VIP Carnival wearing their Best Buddies T-shirts, and they ride along with the VIPs when the parents or caregivers can’t ride along with them. We also have a number of service provider and organization tents. This year, we are approaching 20 different services, and most of them are free. These providers and organizations help families with special needs with things like funding for wheelchairs and other special equipment needed to care for their child. And we even have two ladies who come every year who own massage therapies, and they give away free massage therapies to the caregivers.” Dreier emphasized that families and caregivers need to register online for the VIP Carnival, so they can get the extra free gifts and other perks that are provided by the event’s sponsors and so the organizers have an accurate headcount for meals, etc. To register for the VIP Carnival, visit thehawkfoundation.org. Moran listed this year’s Fall Festival highlights as being the VIP Carnival on Friday, the parade the following morning and the big silent auction on Saturday. “We’ve also got the ‘Impalas’ performing again this year at the Lions Lounge that opens at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. The band will perform beginning at 7 p.m. that evening. The beer lines were very popular among the adults. We’ve had great feedback from the attendees on the Lions Lounge and the ‘Impalas,’ so we keep inviting them back because they keep the crowd going, and it’s a great time.” Moran also mentioned the 16th Annual American Dream Car show that takes place Sunday, September 9 at Lions Park from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. This show includes a display of stock and modified cars, trucks and vintage models. He noted that the annual Miss Fall Festival Outstanding Teen pageant will be held the following Sunday, September 16 at Whitestown Town Hall at 3:00 p.m., but the contestants will be present throughout the carnival and other festival-related events. To participate in the silent auction and support the Lion’s Club’s activities, visit qtego.net/auc/zlc. You can review items up for bid, register your mobile phone and start bidding. To learn more about the Fall Festival and for a full listing of events, visit zionsvillelions.com and click on the Events tab.