Once upon a time, Scott and I were both graduate students at Iowa State University, living on NOTHING and eating PB&J everyday for lunch. It was the best.
This week and through the weekend, Iowa State celebrates the infamous VEISHEA. The name coined after the five original colleges (Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics and Agriculture). I have a special place in my heart for this tradition. A feller named Ben Dohrmann and I served as the General Co-Chairs of the event way back in 1998. The year before that, I served as the Special Events Co-Chair and learned about all things Cyclone.
The story goes like this. Texas Aggie girl and her new husband move five states away to Iowa. She longs to “get involved”, it’s in her DNA. So, in between serving as a Teaching Assistant for a senior-level agriculture elective, writing her thesis and being a newlywed, she decides to apply for a committee on campus. It’s supposed to be a big deal. Who knew? She spelled VEISHA wrong (leaving out that pesky second “E”) on her application, but the general co-chairs, Daniel and Steph, had mercy on her and invited her onboard anyway. She had the time of her life. They made fun of her accent, but by the end of the year, the entire executive committee wanted to know more about Aggieland. The next year, she decided, ‘Hey, I still have ALL sorts of free time on my hands, why not?’ and so she applied to chair the entire event. The interview team said ‘yes’ and she and Ben made history.
VEISHEA 1998, “A Time for Change,” came on the heels of rampant rioting and a horrible death of a young man, all blamed on this tradition. VEISHEA is steeped in history, Presidents Truman and Johnson once lit the VEISHEA torch. Every kid growing up in Iowa knows about the VEISHEA Parade and more than 75,000 people attend. The “Stars Over VEISHEA” play is legendary. There are sporting events, concerts, a Taste of VEISHEA, thousands of cherry pies made by students (they are seriously good), comedians, open houses all over campus, food tents…every square inch of campus is dominated by a truly fantastic showcase of the university. It’s as good as its gets.
For you non-Iowans and fellow Aggies, think A&M Parent’s Weekend, The Big Event, Midnight Yell Practice, Bonfire, Elephant Walk, a football game and a Tim McGraw concert – all on the same weekend. That’s what I got myself signed up for. That, and the fact that if the event didn’t go off well (meaning low arrests, no riots and no bad press), the President of the University would cancel the whole thing. Forever.
Ben and I spent countless hours in meetings with the President and Vice President of Student Affairs, the Government of the Student Body, athletic coaches and campus student leaders. We logged many an hour on Iowa radio stations touting the “change” and penned lots of articles and op/ed pieces (with the help of the awesome university communications staff) on our vision for the tradition. It was a turning point in VEISHEA history and the two of us were honored and humbled to have been a part of it all. Most definitely, that year prepared me well for life after college. What we were dealing with was real world. And we had the time of our lives.
Poor Ben, he learned more Aggie traditions and could quite possibly sing the “Aggie War Hymn” by the end of that year. I still keep in touch with several members of our Exec Team and the university and community officials we were privileged to meet. It was one of those life-changing events. Scott just hung back and enjoyed the ride – well, that, and some pretty awesome seats at the parade.
Sorry for being so chatty. Just reminiscing a bit, I think. I’m really hoping we can get up to Iowa SOON to show our kids what an awesome place Iowa is. After all, it’s where “Scott & Kathryn” first began!
TOP TEN: FAVORITE VEISHEA MEMORIES
Ok, sue me. I have 13.