Hundreds of students attend WelcomeFest to mingle with local businesses

Hundreds of students line up to go to fall WelcomeFest in the Memorial Union to talk with businesses and get free swag.

Jill Even

Hundreds of Iowa State students lined the halls of the Memorial Union to attend WelcomeFest, an event that allows students to mingle with local businesses and get free gifts.

Before entering the Great Hall, students were given a reusable tote bag with hand sanitizer and pens in it. They were instructed to use hand sanitizer upon entrance.

Masks were required for entrance, but there was little to no social distancing occurring as lines wound around the lobby, stairs and hallways to the Great Hall. Once in the Great Hall, there were lines of close-knit students attending for fun and for free handouts.

Mikaela Pedersen, Iowa State alumna and prevention specialist at the Project of Primary Health Care, said she has attended WelcomeFest with her booth for the past three years. The Project for Primary Health Care deals specifically with HIV care and prevention.

“We come to this event because the youth is one of the populations that is disproportionately affected by STIs,” Pedersen said. “We do find that youth, especially gay and bi men, are disproportionately impacted by HIV. We [attend WelcomeFest] just to educate people, let them know that the services exist and that we’re here to provide testing, PrEP, HIV treatment if needed and counseling.”

Pedersen’s booth gave out informational pamphlets, condoms, dental dams, stickers and pins.

Philip Markos, senior in electrical engineering, looked forward to the free pizza from Blaze Pizza.

“I [came to WelcomeFest] to see all the businesses, come support them and get some coupons to support them through the future while I’m here,” Markos said.

Markos was one of the first 10 people through the door before many more people continued to stream into the Great Hall.

“I’m okay with [the amount of people] here,” Markos said. “Everyone’s got a mask on. I think Iowa State has done a good job of enforcing rules. I think I’m okay with this.”

Janelle Tapia, freshman in child, adult and family services, wore her homemade yellow mask to check out BareFoot Campus Outfitter at WelcomeFest.

“I just saw posters everywhere [for WelcomeFest], and I thought I’d just come check it out; it looked fun,” Tapia said. “[…] There’s a large amount of people here, but they’re all wearing masks, so I don’t feel as stressed as I thought I was going to be,” Tapia said.