Thousands of people made an appearance Saturday in downtown Terre Haute, but not all of them were there for the official Indiana State University homecoming celebrations.
A good number of them attended an unofficial homecoming tradition known as “The Walk.” It is a bar-hopping event, which often coincides with other annual homecoming celebrations such as the Blue and White Parade and Tent City before the football game at Memorial Stadium.
Unlike other college town bar crawls, this one begins at sunrise. Walkers trek about two and a half miles east along Wabash Avenue toward Memorial Stadium, stopping for a drink at each bar along the way.
It was barely 9 a.m. Saturday but one of the stops, The Copper Bar, already had a huge line of walkers waiting to get in. The outdoor bar area of its next-door neighbor, The Terminal Sports and Spirits, was packed with people drinking and dancing before noon.
One first-time walker, Breanna Roach, was standing in the outdoor bar area at the corner of Ninth Street and Wabash Avenue when she spoke to the Tribune-Star. Roach and her friends started The Walk around 7:30 a.m. The Terminal was her third bar stop. The goal was to try 10 bars.
“I love going out and having fun,” the student said. “I’m trying to attempt to get to the football stadium with my friends.”
“Keyword: attempt,” she added with a smile.
But while she was having fun, she was also taking it easy on the alcohol.
“I’m drinking very responsibly,” Roach said. Although she was on her third beer, she also kept herself hydrated with water, she added.
Her friends made The Walk experience complete, she said. They watch out for each other and make “sure nothing bad happens to any of us,” she added.
“It’s very important that my friends are here with me,” Roach said. “The Walk wouldn’t be the same without them.”
But students were not the only participants of The Walk.
One Terre Haute resident, Tonya Jackson, said she has been “walking” annually for the last six years.
“Just for the fun of it,” Jackson said. “I’m a people person. I love to be out in the street.”
This year, she did The Walk with three of her friends. Unlike many walkers, their walk “started at the house,” she said.
But many local agencies helped walkers stay safe.
In addition to police agencies patrolling the streets, the university also offered the “Designated Walker” program and “SoberRide,” which gave students a ride to a residence within a designated area of campus.
One designated walker, Fabian De Leon, said his task was to assist intoxicated students get to Memorial Stadium safely by walking with them.
According to a press release, Indiana State’s Designated Walker program debuted in 2009, with 31 participants. This year, there were about 150 participants, De Leon said.
He decided to make the day-long volunteer commitment because he felt there was a lot of people in need of help.
“We want to step up and help the people that need assistance while being intoxicated,” he said as he stood with other designated walkers on Wabash Avenue.
His biggest challenge, he said, was tolerating what people say when they’re drunk. But at the end of the day, he gets to go home feeling satisfied that he assisted someone “and not just walked by.”
Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribstarDianne.