Slaying aside, there were few Veishea hitches

Jennifer Dostal

Veishea and local police officials said Sunday that this year’s festival was relatively quiet compared to past Veishea celebrations despite the overshadowing homicide.

“Things were extremely smooth,” said Peer Security Coordinator Brad James, a sophomore in animal science. “There was hardly any tension.”

Taste of Veishea’s relaxed atmosphere on Welch Avenue apparently was a combination of several elements.

James attributed its success to the better education of students about the rules and regulations at the street fair.

Because alcohol was not allowed, Peer Security volunteers had two options for people consuming at Taste of Veishea: “Slam it or dump it.”

Regardless of the choice, an escort out of the Welch Avenue area was likely if caught consuming alcohol, James said.

The nearly 80 Peer Security volunteers dealt with alcohol consumption and occasionally broke up fights.

“We aren’t in the business of people. We’re just trying to keep the streets safe for patrons,” James said.

Loras Jaeger, Department of Public Safety director, credited Peer Security volunteers and Student Security officers for helping avoid the problems of Veishea 1992, a riot-plagued year.

While no one was seriously injured in the 1992 Veishea riot, the event threatened the future of Veishea.

Three nights of riots also occurred in 1988.

While some past Veisheas are remembered for their riots, memories of Veishea ’97 will undoubtedly be connected to the stabbing death of Harold Sellers on Welch Avenue.

But Sellers was found outside of Taste of Veishea, James pointed out.

“Other than the tragic incident, this Veishea the people were much calmer and better than last year,” Jaeger said.

Officials said 154 people were charged with crimes, but most of the offenses were minor charges.

Wesley James, a Peer Security volunteer and a senior in agricultural business, said he particularly noticed fewer fights.

“I saw [one fight] from a distance, but six police officers were already heading that way,” he said. “I didn’t have to use my radio to call the police.”

Student volunteers told people to “put [alcohol] away and behave like a normal adult,” Wesley James said. He said people felt better being told to put alcohol away by someone their own age.

In past years, Peer Security was “somewhat confrontational.” This year the officers were more of a “helpful crew” Brad James said. The officers’ training emphasized being friendly and a liaison between the patrons and the Veishea activities, he said.

Though official numbers haven’t yet been totaled, Veishea officials estimate that more than 100,000 people flocked to Ames for the festivities over the weekend.

The crowd likely pumped more than $1 million into the local economy.

“Any time you get a group that size, you’ll have a few scuffles,” Brad James said.