Thousands of students explored Ames businesses at WelcomeFest


Students and vendors packed the Great Hall for fall WelcomeFest.

Molly Blanco

Thousands of students packed the Great Hall to mingle with local businesses and receive free swag at WelcomeFest Wednesday.

Kristine Heflin, associate director of the Memorial Union for Student Activities, said about 3,000 students and 104 vendors attended WelcomeFest this year.

“We had a steady stream of students the entire three hours,” Heflin said. “[The vendors] were all super happy, if not a little overwhelmed at the turnout.”

Many students and vendors were grateful to attend a regular WelcomeFest in person this year after a modified version of the event was held last fall. 

Anna Overmann, a sophomore in industrial technology, attended WelcomeFest last fall. She said the event was much larger this year, with more vendors and students attending. 

“It’s a lot of people packed in not a lot of space, but I don’t think there is any way around that,” Overmann said. 

Matthew Minniear, a freshman in mechanical engineering, attended WelcomeFest for the first time this year. 

“I saw the signs and I saw people walking with their bags, so I headed this way,” Minniear said. “A lot of people aren’t wearing masks, which is kind of iffy with me,” he added. 

Attendees were given a swag bag filled with snacks and other freebies as they entered the Great Hall.

Inside the Great Hall, opportunities for more free gifts abounded at the vendor booths. Vendors handed out bags, snacks, candy, pens, pins, t-shirts, stickers and tons of other swag. 

“Due to the nature of WelcomeFest, there is no good way to hold the event virtually,” Heflin said. “Free samples and swag are hard to give out via a screen!” 

Kimi Snyder, a junior in animal science, attended WelcomeFest to pick up free swag. 

“I think [WelcomeFest] is good for freshmen because it helps them see what all Ames has to offer,” Snyder said. 

Claire Palmer, a junior in mechanical engineering, attended WelcomeFest with her roommates. 

“It’s a little overwhelming with the amount of people, but it’s been pretty fun and it’s nice to see all the companies out and about,” Palmer said.

One of the businesses attending was Primary Health Care in Ames. They handed out business cards, condoms, female condoms and lubricants to promote their family planning programs. 

“We come to this event… to talk about safe sex and promote our clinic,” said Haley Vajgrt, medical and dental clinic administrator for Primary Health Care.

Brooke German, communications and digital specialist for McFarland Clinic, said WelcomeFest is a great opportunity to educate students about local healthcare options and the services they provide at McFarland. 

“We are here telling students about our express care and urgent care options that we have here in Ames,” German said.