TERRE HAUTE —
Making the best of a situation.
People who master that elusive skill probably live longer, chew fewer Rolaids and sleep more peacefully.
This fall, Indiana State University appears to be making the best of a situation known as “The Walk.” For the uninitiated, The Walk has become an ISU Homecoming ritual. It consists of thousands of students, their parents (sometimes) and alums bar-hopping on foot, beginning early that morning at the west end of Wabash Avenue and concluding — in theory — two miles away at Memorial Stadium, where the ISU football team plays its Homecoming game that afternoon.
Some Walkers never reach the stadium, because they’ve consumed too much alcohol. Some never intend to see the football game. Others get to the stadium, but stay outside on the lawn at tailgate parties. A select number complete The Walk, go inside the gate and watch the Sycamores.
Not surprisingly, the excursion isn’t problem-free. During last year’s Homecoming, the Indiana State Excise Police cited 82 people for primarily alcohol-related offenses, according to a Tribune-Star report on Page A1 today. Five businesses got cited for offenses related to minors. This year, Vigo County Sheriff Jon Marvel intends to have extra officers on duty to contain any drunken misbehavior by the Walkers, whose route takes them through a four-block stretch of the ISU Homecoming Parade.
To some, The Walk represents Terre Haute’s version of college football fun and tradition.
To others, The Walk involves too much drinking and too many misdeeds to have an upside.
For years, the university has emphasized that it has no official connection to The Walk. This fall, though, ISU also is acknowledging The Walk exists and that its students participate. That’s a wise approach, because the event — which has grown significantly since it began in the early 1990s — is not going to simply disappear. With an effective and reasonable police presence, coupled with some innovative safety plans created by the university, The Walk 2010 could fit more acceptably into the Oct. 9 Homecoming festivities.
As ISU President Daniel Bradley told the Tribune-Star’s Lisa Trigg, “I think The Walk itself, in principle, could be a great tradition.”
Indeed, most Purdue football fans know all about “the Breakfast Club,” which involves students and some alums getting up early on home game days, dressing up in costumes and having a few drinks in participating bars before the Boilermakers play. Tailgating around Bloomington’s Memorial Stadium before IU games is lively and colorful, even when the Hoosiers struggle on the gridiron.
In its own way, The Walk — flawed as it is — fills a Breakfast Club-like spot in the hearts of some ISU students and alumni.
“This is particular to Indiana State,” said John Newton, a consultant to the ISU Foundation, “and there is a sense of pride among the students, that ‘this is ours.’”
Technically retired, Newton knows ISU as well as anyone after 36 years with the university. Yet he’s not sure at what point The Walk transformed from a loosely arranged whim into a campus happening, complete with commemorative T-shirts and early Saturday hours for downtown bars and businesses. Odd as it seems, The Walk may be the most unified moment for the ISU student body. Such a sense of identity — elusive at ISU because of its background as a commuter school — emerged briefly in far broader fashion during its Larry Bird-era of basketball.
The task is to harness the enthusiasm put into The Walk, while also keeping the Walkers safe, sober, responsible and respectful of people they encounter, especially parade-going families. Otherwise, they’re risking arrest.
The university’s Designated Walker and SoberRide programs mark a responsible step for the university. ISU has trained selected students — known as Designated Walkers — in alcohol awareness and bystander intervention techniques. Last year, 31 Designated Walkers accompanied groups of classmates along The Walk. This year, the number of Designated Walkers has jumped to 74.
“Designated Walkers can still accompany their friends and have fun on The Walk and at Homecoming. They just don’t drink,” Aimee Janssen-Robinson told the Tribune-Star.
Also, the university’s SoberRide service offers students a free taxi ride to their residence during Homecoming Weekend.
Of course, the creation of a football facility closer to or on campus, instead of two miles away, would render The Walk an aimless exercise. “Maybe someday, if we had a football stadium on the river, that’ll all change,” Newton said. Such a Wabash River-side facility is envisioned in ISU’s long-range plans.
Not all Walkers, though, intend to watch the Sycamore football team play on Homecoming. Last year, ISU beat Western Illinois 17-14 in a come-from-behind Homecoming thriller. Though the announced attendance was 6,028, many folks remained outside the gates at tailgate parties. “It was disappointing to see so many people still outside the stadium in Tent City,” said Athletic Director Ron Prettyman. Inside the stadium, “It was such an electric atmosphere,” he added.
The hesitance of potential fans is understandable. That victory on last year’s Homecoming broke a worst-in-the-nation 33-game losing streak, and the program hasn’t delivered a winning season since 1995. But Prettyman says fans will see an improved team this year. Kickoff for the Homecoming game against Illinois State is 3 p.m. Walkers should have plenty of time to reach the corner of Brown and Wabash and then watch the game. Tailgaters should have ample socializing time, too.
There is some irony worth noting: At the end of The Walk, beer is permitted outside the stadium for tailgaters and group tents, but alcohol is not sold inside Memorial Stadium, and Prettyman said the university hasn’t considered changing its policy. He emphasized that ISU does not allow beer sales at any of its sporting events. In recent years, ISU offered a beer garden outside Memorial Stadium on Homecoming, but “it was not well-attended, so this year, we discontinued it,” Prettyman said.
Would beer sales inside the stadium lessen the intake during The Walk? It’s hard to tell.
But if the scope of the Walkers’ objective widens drink-based revelry, the event might become more of an embraceable tradition.
More food stops, perhaps even kiosks or vendor carts, could be added along the Walkers’ route. Eating contests, using subs or pancakes, might be possible. Some activities, like a tug-of-war, mud volleyball or feats of strength would help, too. Undoubtedly, Walkers also should limit their drinking and behave decently. Most of all, the Walkers should walk inside Memorial Stadium and see the football game; that should be their quest.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MARK BENNETT: As ‘The Walk’ grows into a Homecoming ritual, ISU works to make the best of the situation
TERRE HAUTE —
Making the best of a situation.
- Mark Bennett Opinion
MARK BENNETT: All aboard!
Find me a George Mason University basketball T-shirt in Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: Blessings of a long, cold, snowy winter
As spring, summer arrive, Hoosiers will appreciate icy months (well, maybe a little)
MARK BENNETT: Healing Indiana’s Achilles’ heel
Illinois served as the easy target.
At that moment.
MARK BENNETT: Yeah, yeah, yeah... For some grownups, first impression not so fab
We’re pretty smart here in middle America.
Our DNA carries the common-sense chromosome. From birth, Midwestern culture begins honing us into the most rational and perceptive of human beings. Sure, our prisons are full, but generally, we mean well. And we’re wise.
MARK BENNETT: Remembering the less glitzy days on Manning’s road to the Super Bowl
A blur of memories.
They’ll flicker fast and furious tonight, like a spinning Rolodex, when Peyton Manning runs onto the MetLife Stadium turf in Jersey City, as a Denver Bronco, playing for a Super Bowl ring against the Seattle Seahawks. Most Hauteans will experience flashbacks, too.
MARK BENNETT: A lengthening climb
The American economy is improving.
Confidence has risen since the government shutdown by the polarized Congress last fall. Indicators in various sectors show promise.
MARK BENNETT: Tackling entrenched economic problems could brighten local forecast
Without a DeLorean, there’s no going back to 1995.
MARK BENNETT: What is Indiana’s image in the eyes of the world?
A bus pulled up to the curb near the riverfront in downtown Chicago. An unusual advertisement was painted on its side.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer
Bobby Leonard symbolized the feisty competitive flair of the old ABA.
MARK BENNETT: Letter from coach’s young daughter put pro sports, Christmas in perspective
Most of us sympathize with people forced to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That list is growing, now that Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday, causing retail employees to join doctors, nurses, hospital staffers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, military members, convenience store clerks, road crews and media to spend holidays at work. Ideally, we’ll feel gratitude when we require their services on those special days. Too often, their sacrificed time gets taken for granted.
Terry Leonard wanted the executives to remember her dad, and their family, at Christmastime.
And, amazingly, they listened.
MARK BENNETT: A degree of success
Determination to get that diploma Larry Bird’s deepest bond with fellow ISU alums, students
MARK BENNETT: Brad Fenton and friends set dominos in motion to make Larry Bird statue a reality
The idea has been out there for awhile, floating.
Locals in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s would say, “They need to put up a statue of Larry Bird. I mean, one of the all-time greatest basketball players played right here in Terre Haute at Indiana State University.”
MARK BENNETT: Next chapter set to begin
Use the classic Tommy Tutone song to memorize the following number …
MARK BENNETT: One-ring blues?
Minutes before kickoff tonight, the Lucas Oil Stadium tech crew should play Sam Cooke’s classic, “(What a) Wonderful World” over the sound system.
MARK BENNETT: At Peace in Parke County
Northwestern Parke County — The stream merely trickles beneath Mill Creek Bridge. It’s just a few inches deep, but the water keeps moving.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute native Tommy John belongs in Cooperstown for pitching like a Hall of Famer
Few players in history left a greater impact on baseball than Tommy John.
And he did so through his performance on the field.
MARK BENNETT: Remotely confused
“Must See TV,” where have you gone?
MARK BENNETT: Popularity Contest: Congress does little to improve its standing with Americans
The members of Congress ardently resisting the Affordable Care Act emphasize its unpopularity.
MARK BENNETT: ‘The voice of the Democratic Party’
The ad stands as a campaign classic. Its scenario is part of history. Its narrator would be familiar to millions of Americans, yet anonymous, too.
MARK BENNETT: Transparency in public decision-making includes sincerely listening to the people
Transparency isn’t universally accepted in public entities.
MARK BENNETT: This Little Light: Remote chapel keeps a light shining on story of Flight 93
Father Al explained the meaning of the lamp. He asked me to light it.
The reverence in his voice offset the raspiness, left by his latest battle with cancer. Clearly, he saw this place as special.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections on the Wabash
The series “500 Miles of Wabash” wrapped up last Sunday after a five-week run. Readers offered some enlightening insights, memories and photographs as the series unfolded.
MARK BENNETT: Current Information: Put your Wabash knowledge to the test … or quiz
Just for fun, ponder a few questions concerning the large waterway flowing through Indiana and Terre Haute, as the Tribune-Star’s series, “500 Miles of Wabash” concludes in today’s editions. Those who’ve followed the five-part series of stories, photographs and videos about people and communities uniquely embracing the Wabash River may have a head start. If you’re just catching up, check them out in the online editions at www.tribstar.com.
- Answers to the Wabash River Quiz
MARK BENNETT: Pedestrian paths across the Wabash few, so far, but appreciated
The future tends to sneak up on you. Planning for it offers no guarantees, but it helps.
MARK BENNETT: Questions of fairness, impartiality, public trust legitimate in wake of school rating controversy
The discovery of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — weakens trust. The acceptance of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — erases trust. Indiana needs to draw a clear line between the former and the latter, and not cross it.
MARK BENNETT: Living downstream: From source, Wabash bears mark of mankind mile after mile
Something was missing. I’d never visited this spot before, but the view looked familiar. I’ve walked the banks of the Wabash River and its tributaries countless times, catching crawdads and skipping rocks in Honey Creek as a kid. On the other side of the state, where the Wabash crosses from Ohio into Indiana, trees arched over the water as it ran under a bridge on a quiet country road. It looked like western Indiana, except for one absent element. Litter.
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: All aboard!