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Iowa State University. VEISHEA records

 Record Group — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 22/12

Scope and Content

The collection (1922-2014) contains materials related to the annual VEISHEA celebration.

The first sub-group, General records, contains histories of the celebration and by-laws and articles of Incorporation for VEISHEA Inc and The VEISHEA Foundation.

The following sub-groups, organized by decade, include brochures, news clippings, programs, photos, of events at VEISHEA, including Stars over VEISHEA, Queen of Queens, the parade, and Open Houses. Starting from the 1950s (RS 22/12/5).Also included are committee planning documents, of the central committee and the sub-committees.


  • 1922-2014, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


The annual VEISHEA celebration was one of the many rich traditions that formed part of the history of Iowa State University. Celebrated at the end of the spring semester each year, this weekend of festivities was designed as a celebration that focused on entertaining, educating, and promoting leadership. These were the three original goals of VEISHEA, and the celebration significantly changed throughout the years

VEISHEA was first celebrated in 1922 in an effort to combine the various spring celebrations put on by each college at Iowa State into one large all-university celebration. The name VEISHEA appropriately represents the origins of the celebration, as it is an acronym for the five original colleges at Iowa State—Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics and Agriculture. The first VEISHEA celebrations mostly focused on the academic offerings of Iowa State, while providing plenty of entertainment and social activities. The open houses put on by campus clubs and departments were the most popular attractions. One of the most popular open houses was put on by Division of Home Economics. This display included the selling of the now-famous cherry pies. Most people who celebrated VEISHEA said VEISHEA wasn't VEISHEA without a cherry pie.

The parade was another tradition that withstood the test of time. Although much smaller back in the 1920s when nearly all floats were pulled by horses, the parade attracted people from across the state. Originally only academic departments built floats for the parade, but eventually residence areas also began to build floats. In recent times, academic departments, campus organizations, community groups, and residence areas built floats or had entries in the parade. An original event that began in 1922 and was renamed in 1925 but no longer exists was the vaudeville show. This variety show included skits, musical groups, some sort of musical play or comedy, and an assortment of circus-like entertainment. In 1922, the original musical theatre production, now known as Stars Over VEISHEA, was performed as the Nite Show. In 1940 the event was produced outside under the stars on Clyde Williams Field, hence the name Stars Over VEISHEA. This event was then held inside at C.Y. Stephens auditorium.

In an effort to focus on academics, in the early days of VEISHEA there was a moving-up ceremony, which was part of the opening ceremonies. The ceremony was a mock graduation during which each class graduated to the next grade. The most spectacular part of this opening ceremony was the burning of the freshmen beanies as they became sophomores. The objective of the event was to develop unity and class tradition. Due to the increase in the number of events and activities, particularly those taking place during opening ceremonies, the event ended in 1935.

In 1935, a water carnival was incorporated into the events. This same year the swans Lancelot and Elaine were purchased for Lake LaVerne. Many alumni remember the canoe races as a big VEISHEA event. These races began as part of the 1935 water carnival.

Another popular event during VEISHEA was the VEISHEA Queen of Queens pageant. Beginning in 1938, the Queen was chosen from the queens of other campus events such as Homecoming and Greek Week. Famous judges from all over the nation, including Cary Grant, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby selected the VEISHEA Queen of Queens. The last VEISHEA Queen of Queens was crowned in 1970.

Over the years, VEISHEA has attracted people from all over the Midwest to Ames for the weekend. Early on, the railroad company even had to run extra lines just to handle the number of weekend visitors. However, VEISHEA did not always prosper. VEISHEA faced opposition from the student body in 1941. Students voted to cancel VEISHEA because they were not interested in participating. VEISHEA did go on in 1941 because later in the year students decided to reinstate the celebration.

During World War II, VEISHEA was scaled down due to lack of building materials and funds. In 1943-1945, the parade was cancelled and replaced with military reviews. The funds saved from not building the floats for the parade were used as part of a campaign VEISHEA held to help the war effort entitled "Buy a Jeep to Drive Against the Nazi's". VEISHEA raised enough money to buy five jeeps for the U.S. Army. The shows for STARS OVER VEISHEA during VEISHEA 1943, 1944, and 1945 were war shows.

VEISHEA regained its strength and prominence as an organized celebration during the 1950s and1960s. During these years, the central committee worked to organize events that would appeal to a variety of people. A large effort was made to bring entertainment events to Ames that would be popular with both students and alumni. Duke Ellington, Diana Ross and the Supremes and Bob Hope were some of the entertainers who came to campus during those years. In 1953, Ray Anthony and his Band played for the VEISHEA Dance that was broadcast nationwide on CBS radio.

During the Vietnam War, the spirit of VEISHEA again became somber and several adjustments to the celebration were made to meet the needs of the students. In 1970, the VEISHEA Central Committee asked protest leaders to assist in planning the activities. A "March of Concern" was added to the parade, no one was allowed to carry a weapon (not even the military), and a public area for discussing current events was open day and night during VEISHEA. Again, VEISHEA was under attack; not everyone enjoyed the changes, some of the people disgruntled by the overly political tone the celebration had taken called for the end of VEISHEA. The feelings did not last, by 1973 the atmosphere of merriment had returned to the event.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the popularity of VEISHEA continued to grow, but the original purposes of VEISHEA began to be overshadowed by the unofficial parties that dominated the weekend. Students from all over flocked to Ames during the weekend in an effort to participate in what was known as the largest party in the Midwest. The traditional activities of the weekend, such as the parade, open houses, and concert, continued as usual, but they were no longer the focus of the celebration. The VEISHEA Central Committee did not take action to revitalize the original intent of VEISHEA because the people were still coming to Ames. In fact, the concert was ended in 1980 because there was no longer a need to provide entertainment for all these people because they were able to find their own forms of entertainment. VEISHEA carried on as usual, but each year it became less and less the celebration of excellence it was originally created to be and more and more a huge party.

Gradually what began as minor disturbances and altercations between VEISHEA celebrators and police escalated into a full riot in 1988. Thousands of students gathered in the south block of Welch Avenue chanting and screaming. A bonfire was started in the middle of the street that created a hole several feet deep in the asphalt. Police were unable to control the crowd and eventually called in basketball coach Johnny Orr and football coach Jim Walden in an effort of calm the crowd and convince them to disperse. The tactic worked and eventually the crowd dissipated, however they left behind the charred remnants of burnt furniture, beer cans, and clothing. Two students were arrested for inciting a riot but no other major actions were taken. VEISHEA was examined to see whether or not it was still a worthwhile celebration and after much discussion, it was decided that VEISHEA could stay.

Unfortunately, no significant changes were made to return the purpose of VEISHEA to its original goals and the party atmosphere continued for the next decade with more disturbances occurring and the parties becoming larger and larger. Community members, both residents and business owners, were upset with the celebration because they no longer felt their properties were safe. Alumni still came for the celebration, but anyone with a family left after the parade on Saturday because they did not want to be a part of the unsafe environment. In 1993, after another riot during VEISHEA 1992, a new event entitled Taste of VEISHEA was created as a crowd control measure. Welch Avenue was blocked off as a pedestrian mall with food vendors, tournaments, games, and entertainment going on all day and night. Students saw the event as a new activity for them, but the underlying purpose was to prevent large crowds from gathering on Welch Avenue. To a certain extent this solved the problems of the Welch riots, however, smaller riots still took place off campus in West Ames or in other parts of Campus Town. Also in 1993, Farm Aid VI, a country music concert to benefit farmers, came to Cyclone Stadium in Ames during VEISHEA weekend. Although this was not an event planned by the VEISHEA committee, it did draw many Iowans to Ames for the weekend.

The true turning point for VEISHEA came in 1997 after what was deemed a successful celebration by president Martin Jischke, was marred by tragedy. Harold "Uri" Sellers was fatally wounded on the lawn of Adelante Fraternity early Sunday morning. The two men convicted of the crime as well as the victim were not connected to Iowa State University or the City of Ames in any way except for their participation in the VEISHEA weekend activities. VEISHEA was immediately examined by a task force put together by the president. Although Iowa State students did not cause the problems of the weekend, the incident highlighted the fact that what was once a safe celebration for all had turned into a dangerous environment. Dr. Jischke and the task force decided that the celebration would go alcohol free or end. In what many students considered an ultimatum, Dr. Jischke gave the choice to students as to whether or not they wanted to save their celebration. Although disgruntled, the governing student bodies all pledged to support an alcohol free VEISHEA and the celebration went on. The theme for VEISHEA 1998 was aptly titled "A Time for Change". The weekend definitely changed. The focus of the celebration turned from the parties to the events planned by the VEISHEA committees. A large-scale concert in Hilton Coliseum featuring the band Tonic was added to the schedule of events. Additionally, a wider variety of entertainment was provided on the Taste stage at Taste of VEISHEA on Welch Avenue. Despite the additional activities, many students were unhappy with the change, mostly because they only associated VEISHEA with drinking. Students left campus for the weekend—either to protest dry VEISHEA or so they could consume alcohol. However VEISHEA went on. VEISHEA 1998 was declared a success by the administration and community with the number of arrests dropping significantly. VEISHEA continued as an alcohol free celebration for the next few years, but student support of the event was dropping quickly. Each fall when students were asked to vote to support a dry VEISHEA, more and more voices of opposition spoke up. In the end, however, students still voted to keep VEISHEA.

VEISHEA remained an alcohol-free celebration. However, beginning in 2001, there was no pledge attached to this policy. VEISHEA 2001 was not without opposition. Much like the situation in 1941, students were upset with the quality of celebration. There was an unsuccessful petition created by a group of students with the goal of creating a student referendum to vote to end the funding of VEISHEA by the Government of the Student body.

In 2004 a riot occurred early April 18 after Ames Police dispersed about 400 people at a party. This crowd grew, intensified, and eventually became violent, ultimately causing over $250,000 in damage to public and private property.

The 2004 riots ruined what had been a very successful celebration. On April 27, ISU president Gregory L. Geoffroy announced that VEISHEA would not be held in 2005. This was met with disappointment both on and off campus.

2005 marked the first time in 82 years that VEISHEA was not held.

2014 marked the end of VEISHEA in its entirety. A riot occurred early in the morning on Wednesday, April 9, destroying property in the Campustown area. A student was injured when rioters tore down a street light. In response to the injuries and vandalism, president Steven Leath suspended the remainder of the 2014 VEISHEA celebrations and created a task force to discuss the future of the celebration.

In June the task force voted unanimously to end VEISHEA in its current form. The task force recommended that the school continue to have an “overarching, university-wide event." However, the task force also suggested it not be called VEISHEA.

On August 7, 2014 President Leath announced that VEISHEA would no longer be held, and that the VEISHEA name was officially retired.


53.45 Linear Feet


This collection is arranged into 11 sub-groups, the first with historical information and bylaws from throughout the existence of VEISHEA, and the rest with materials related to each decade of Veishea, from the 1920s to the 2010s.

Processing Information

Released on 2019-04-02.

RS 22/12. Iowa State University. VEISHEA records, 1922-2014, undated
April 2, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672