Explore local businesses at WelcomeFest


A representative from Campus Christian Fellowship shares information with a student at WelcomeFest Aug. 24, 2022.

More than 50 local vendors will welcome students back to campus with free swag and information about their services at Iowa State’s bi-annual WelcomeFest.

The free event will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Memorial Union Great Hall with no registration required.

“The idea behind WelcomeFest is to give students an opportunity to find out about businesses and organizations within Ames,” said Kristine Heflin, associate director of the Memorial Union for student engagement.

Participating vendors will advertise their goods and services to students with QR codes, flyers and giveaway contests. Many will also give away free stickers, koozies, t-shirts and food.

Haverkamp properties is a returning vendor that will advertise its housing options. At a previous WelcomeFest, they passed out free succulents that ran out before the event ended.

New vendors who will be attending for the first time include the CTC Barber Academy, a barber school that also gives haircuts, and Matt’s Moving and Rentals, a company that helps students move out for the summer.

In previous years, WelcomeFest has filled the Memorial Union’s Great Hall from wall to wall. Students with their arms full of free swag often spend the night circling the room as they travel between tables while vendors with showy displays call out to the crowd to attract people to their booth.

“I think it can be a little overwhelming for a first-time attendee,” Heflin said, “but if people kind of know that going in, then they can just kind of take a lap around and be okay.”

Many students show up to the event right as the doors open at 5:30 p.m., which can help ensure they pick up any and all free items before supplies run out. However, this can create long lines and sizable crowds at the event’s kick off.

“If you want to come a bit later, [vendors] will still be around until 8,” Heflin said. “It might be a bit less busy for people that are looking for a little bit less of the chaos.”

WelcomeFest initially began as an annual event the university hosted each fall. However, a spring event was added in 2021 and has continued since then.

Hosting a WelcomeFest each semester provides businesses an extra opportunity to advertise to students and generates additional revenue for student engagement to put towards future student programs and services.

Vendors pay anywhere from $200 to $600 to participate in WelcomeFest. The cheapest ticket includes a single parking ticket, a booth and the name of their company on the WelcomeFest website. Paying more money can earn vendors extra commodities such as additional parking tickets, social media shout outs and better table placement.

Maintaining high attendance in the spring edition of WelcomeFest is sometimes challenging due to colder and darker weather, but Heflin believes the event has still been consistently successful.

“I think we’ll keep having [a spring WelcomeFest] because we know that there’s a desire, both from students and from businesses,” Heflin said.

Additional information and a full list of vendors can be found on the Student Engagement website.