TERRE HAUTE —
One of my favorite philosophers, Bugs Bunny, understood his predicament.
As a perpetually pursued game animal, Bugs often asked his cartoon audience, “Did you ever have the feeling you was being watched?”
Scrutiny can be powerful. It keeps rabbits, like Bugs, alert. In humans, it can improve behavior.
And, it has gradually transformed a ritual of rebellious revelry into a more tolerable slice of local tradition. That transformation of “The Walk” is definitely a work in progress, and probably will remain so, given its premise.
The origins of The Walk are hard to pinpoint, beyond urban legend. Sometime in the previous century, though, it became a fixture during the Indiana State University Homecoming festivities.
Starting around 7 o’clock on Homecoming mornings, ISU students and some alums walk nearly 25 blocks along Wabash Avenue, making stops at jam-packed taverns and beer-serving restaurants until — in theory — they reach the site of the ISU Homecoming football game, Memorial Stadium, later that afternoon.
In between, stuff happens. The socializing in a festive, college-town atmosphere occasionally gets tainted by unruly, obnoxious, drunken behavior.
Because the early stages of The Walk coincide with the one moment annually when the campus, downtown and greater Terre Haute communities converge — the ISU Homecoming parade — the general public encounters The Walkers first-hand.
The Walk is not, nor has it ever been, an official part of the ISU Homecoming. Students started it, and they perpetuate it. Despite that genuine disclaimer, complaints of misbehavior have historically been directed at the university.
Seven years ago, beset by “complaints all up and down Wabash from people who were tired of students urinating and throwing up in their buildings,” according to then-ISU president Lloyd Benjamin, the university rerouted the Homecoming parade off Wabash Avenue. By sending the marching bands, floats and candy-tossing politicians a block north on Cherry Street, Walkers would avoid parade-watchers. The detour of the parade, which dates back to the 1920s, off its traditional path — Wabash Avenue, the National Road — proved wildly unpopular.
Yet, it provided a turning point.
Campus, downtown and city officials started talking. The following spring, ISU announced its Blue and White Parade would return to Wabash. At that announcement, Todd Nation, a city councilman and downtown business owner, suggested measures to alleviate the misbehavior by Walkers, such as placing portable toilets along their route, providing free bus service for participants who want to stop walking early and go on to the stadium or go back to campus, and adding police between the bars.
That was only half of the equation. Kevin Burke, then Terre Haute’s mayor, delivered the bottom-line requirement for students.
“The Walk simply has to behave,” Burke said on that day in 2006.
Turn the clock forward to Monday.
ISU still plays no official part in organization of The Walk, but the university no longer ignores or avoids a ritual that is not going to go away. Through those recommendations uttered six years ago, The Walk has taken steps toward becoming an accepted tradition — a highly monitored, accepted tradition. For now, “tolerated” probably fits better than “accepted.”
“The fact that The Walk gets a lot of scrutiny has helped,” Bill Mercier, ISU Police chief, said Tuesday.
“It certainly is a big event,” Mercier added. “It can’t be ignored. And a majority of the students understand they’re being watched by the community. Of course, there’s always going to be those few people who are going to abuse it.”
Those folks will likely encounter one element of the heightened scrutiny — a significant police presence. Along with security inside the businesses, officers from the Vigo County Sheriff, Terre Haute Police, Indiana State Police, Indiana State Excise Police and ISU departments work the route. Some wear plain clothes. Some wear uniforms. Some patrol on bicycles.
The number of arrests for underage drinking and public intoxication have been few in recent years, according to excise police.
“Over a number of years, a consistent police presence has had an impact on The Walk and tailgating [outside Memorial Stadium],” said Travis Thickstun, public information officer for the state excise police.
He acknowledged other initiatives by ISU and the community.
The city will, once again, provide portable toilets in Gilbert Park, Mayor Duke Bennett said Wednesday. Businesses provide other portable johns elsewhere.
Also, two programs aimed at keeping students safe during The Walk will continue this Oct. 6 when ISU celebrates its Homecoming 2012. The university’s Designated Walker program hopes to use more than 100 students who will agree to stay sober that day and — through two days of training — monitor friends who are imbibing. Trainees can use “bystander intervention” skills if someone causes damage or a disturbance, carries booze outside designated areas, has trouble walking or loses consciousness, said Aimee Janssen-Robinson.
With some incidents, Designated Walkers may simply alert police, she added.
Designated Walkers is in its fourth consecutive year. Another program, SoberRide, is in its third straight year. Two buses, provided by Lafayette Limo, will give rides to Walkers along a multi-stop, continuous route from the stadium to the campus. The number of students using SoberRide has grown from 400 in its first year, 2010, to 600 last year, Janssen-Robinson said.
“You’re not going to end [The Walk],” she said, “so what we need to do is make the environment safer.”
Walkers who do misbehave cause problems, no doubt. The Downtown Farmers Market, which offers fruits, veggies and other home-grown goods every Saturday from June through October at the Clabber Girl lot at Ninth and Cherry streets, will not convene on Oct. 6, Angi Hansel, market master, said Tuesday. In past years, Walkers take a shortcut from Wabash to a campus bar through the market area, disrupting the process. Vendors unanimously decided to “take the weekend off” this Homecoming, Hansel said. The market will resume the following Saturday, Oct. 13.
Let’s hope the number of disruptive Walkers drops even lower this year, prompting farmers market organizers to try again on Homecoming 2013. After all, the Downtown Farmers Market is a tradition, too.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
One of my favorite philosophers, Bugs Bunny, understood his predicament.
- Local & Bistate
Purdue shooting leaves one person dead
A Purdue University engineering student opened fire inside a basement classroom Tuesday, killing a teaching assistant and prompting officials to put the campus on lockdown, police and the university said.
The night it rained tears
March fuels college basketball teams. Fun, glory, buzzer-beater shots and storybook endings in the NCAA Tournament await there.
THS grad Miller among students in adjacent building when shooting occurs
Kris Miller and his roommate were in a computer lab of Purdue’s mechanical engineering building Tuesday when they received a call that a shooting had occurred next door.
Bosma moves gay marriage ban bill to friendlier committee
Republican House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma sent a bill that proposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage to a more conservative-leaning legislature committee Tuesday, because it lacked support on the first committee to which it was assigned.
We enter the deep freeze again
If you had to step outside to get your newspaper this morning, you might have noticed it’s painfully cold once again.
Levy redirects school funds
If the new “protected levy” legislation goes into effect later this year, it would mean “a substantial reduction” in revenue for Vigo County School Corp. bus transportation, capital projects and bus replacement funds, according to the district’s chief financial officer.
School debt levy redirects funds across Indiana
School officials and state legislators from around the state are searching for ways to keep the school buses running — and children safe on the streets — pending the loss of millions of dollars for school transportation.
More than 50 school districts in Indiana stand to lose at least 20 percent of their revenues for transportation, new buses and other big-ticket projects under a new law that requires them to first pay off their debts.
VIDEO: Sen. Donnelly updates T-S editorial board
Passage of a long overdue U.S. farm bill could be completed by the end of this month, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Tuesday.
Vigo coroner tries again for salary increase
After being denied last year, Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos is again seeking to have her county salary increased to match that of several other county office holders.
POVERTY IN AMERICA: Success depends on birth location
Deb Kesler grew up poor in a single-parent family, but she knew that education was the ticket to a better life.
She and three siblings put themselves through college with grants, loans and work.
50 years after Civil Rights Act, work still to be done
This July will mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — a landmark piece of legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Indian tradition welcomes colors of spring
One little corner of Deming Park got some spring colors Saturday morning when community members gathered to “play Holi,” an important tradition in India.
Students raise more than $1,100 for children’s hospital, watch school staff get heads shaved
Off with the hair!
Middle school students cheered and laughed with excitement during a school assembly Friday at Honey Creek Middle School as they watched three school administrators “go bald” to support a good cause.
Small World Learning Center hopes to save Woods preschool
A Terre Haute preschool facility on Friday night has publicly announced its offer of a merger with The Woods Day Care/Pre-School.
Hot projects on display at home show
Two-year-old Reed Clutter looked like he felt right at home as he played on a swing inside Hulman Center in downtown Terre Haute during the 2014 Home Show kick off on Friday.
VIDEO: Seuss is Loose
Ouabache Elementary School Music teacher Alison West, playing the part of Dr. Seuss' Thing 1, tosses confetti during the "Seuss is Loose" parade celebrating the end of ISTEP+ testing.
Utility seeks land for new power lines
Duke Energy is planning to install a new high-voltage power transmission line that would travel between 10 to 13 miles north to south along the Wabash River, in anticipation of the 2015 closure of its Wabash River Generation Station.
Lugar Center to offer CPR training sessions today
Staff members from Union Hospital are partnering with Clark County (Ill.) residents to offer free CPR training to interested community members.
Free cab rides offered for St. Pat’s Day
Terre Haute law firm Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin, which has made a tradition of encouraging free cab rides home to those who have consumed too much to drive, has its eyes now on St. Patrick’s Day.
More couples challenge same-sex marriage ban
Three federal lawsuits were filed Friday against Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban, boosting the number of legal challenges to the ban’s constitutionality to at least five.
INDOT to discuss U.S. 40 upgrades in Brazil
Indiana Department of Transportation and Gradex Inc. personnel will discuss a pending upgrade of U.S. 40 through Brazil at an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the council room at Brazil City Hall, 203 E. National Ave.
Chamber still taking nominations
The Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce is accepting nominations for the 2013 Business Recognition Awards.
Vigo County Jail Log: March 14, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.
2 new suits target Indiana’s gay marriage ban
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two new federal lawsuits are taking aim at Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban, boosting to four the number of legal challenges to the law filed in a week.
Verizon new title sponsor for IndyCar
Verizon will be the new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series, replacing Izod, which left at the end of the 2013 season.
Driver in critical condition after water rescue
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Fire department divers pulled a woman from an SUV that submerged in an Indianapolis waterway after it careened off a city street.
Inmates part of new Legion post
Wearing khaki-colored matching uniforms, more than 20 veterans inside a maximum-security prison stood tall to salute the flag of the United States at an event that welcomed them as new American Legion members.
Putnam deputy released; April trial set
A Putnam County Sheriff’s deputy accused in federal criminal cases of excessive force against suspects in four arrests has been released to pre-trial supervision.
Parent group hoping to keep day care open
When Grace Finley takes her 4-year-old son to The Woods Day Care/Pre-School, she is reassured knowing that he’s receiving quality care, he’s safe and he’s loved. So when she, and other parents, learned Wednesday that the nationally accredited program is scheduled to close June 6, they were stunned by the news.
SCORE gets new home base
The Greater Wabash Valley SCORE Chapter 661 has moved to the former Indiana State Police Post building at the southwest corner of U.S. 41 and Jessica Drive on the Ivy Tech Community College-Wabash Valley campus.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Purdue shooting leaves one person dead