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Iowa History Daily: VEISHEA 1922

Iowa History Daily: On May 13, 1922, the first VEISHEA came to a close at Iowa State. The annual week-long celebration highlighting many departments, student groups, and other aspects of Iowa state ran until Iowa State President Stephen Leath first suspended, and ultimately discontinued, the popular spring festival.

Named for the university colleges which existed at Iowa State College in 1922 (Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Science (Industrial), Home Economics, and Agriculture), the festival grew out of several other annual spring events including Engineering’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Home Economics’ “HEC Day,” and the Ag Carnival. To avoid so many distractions spread across the calendar, Professor Frank “Shorty” Paine conceptualized the combined celebration and the name VEISHEA.

Always a student led and run event, Wallace McKee led the first VEISHEA Central Committee in 1922. After months of meetings in Beardshear Hall the first festival featured traditional staples of the event including the May Queen Pageant, knighting of Engineering students into the Order of St. Patrick, and the Ag Carnival Vaudeville Show. Departments hosted open houses, the first VEISHEA parade snaked through Ames, Home Economics sold cherry pies, and the ROTC even put on a mock battle. As time progressed, students built on the traditions established at the inaugural VEISHEA with events including “Stars Over VEISHEA,” the VEISHEA Village, and many others near to the hearts of Iowa State alumni.

In 1935, the VEISHEA Central Committee donated two swans to Lake Luverne and hosted a contest to name them. Lancelot and Elaine, the winning names, still carry on with waterfowl rechristened on the iconic ISU water feature. Three Presidents visited VEISHEA: Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Ronald Reagan, and many popular performers graced stages at the event over the years including Sonny & Cher, Billy Joel, and the Goo Goo Dolls.

The popular event also gained a reputation for getting out of hand as the years went on. Massive disturbances occurred in 1988, 1992, 1994, 1997, 2004, and 2014. The 2004 riot caused a reported $250,000 of damage, leading to the ISU President Gregory L. Geoffroy to suspend the popular event in 2005. After returning with new rules in 2006, the event continued until the 2014 riot ultimately led to a discontinuation of the event. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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