Students at Iowa Central Community College and La'James International College got a taste of what the community can offer for them during the Fourth Annual Welcome Back Bash in downtown Fort Dodge Wednesday evening.
The event, hosted by the city of Fort Dodge, along with the Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District, Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and downtown businesses, is designed to bring students from both schools together and to introduce them to the community.
"The whole idea for the event is not only to bring the students to downtown, but also to let them know what our downtown has to offer for them," said Dawn Larson, a business affairs specialist for Fort Dodge.
After moving the event outdoors onto Central Avenue in 2011, and still exceeding attendance expectations, Larson said they were prepared for record attendance this year.
"We have over 500 passports to hand out," Larson said. "And an adequate number of registration forms."
Once registered, participating students received bags with coupons and flyers to several local businesses, and the passports could be taken to more than 10 tables along the street to be stamped by participating businesses and returned for the chance to win prizes.
One popular stopping point along the street was the Fort Dodge Police Department table where Police Chief Tim Carmody and Assistant Chief Kevin Doty gave students the chance to try out "fatal vision" goggles, which simulate the sensation of being intoxicated. Students trying out the goggles were asked to walk a straight line and attempt to catch a ball, which most discovered they were unable to do.
"It was confusing," said Iowa Central student Sarah Kraft, of Goldfield. "Nothing was really where it looks like it is."
It was kind of weird," said Ryan Litchard, another student, "like walking through a tunnel surrounded by mirrors."
Kraft said she has been enjoying her first few days at Iowa Central and decided to try the event with a few friends.
"Things are going well," Kraft said. "We're just seeing what's out there."
Larson said the event is not only a way to introduce and welcome students to the community, but also a possible way to retain them in Fort Dodge and Webster County once they graduate.
"We not only want to show them what's out there. We want them to stay," Larson said. "There is a lot of growth potential happening in Fort Dodge right now and a lot of opportunity."
Iowa Central President Dan Kinney said he appreciates the community's efforts to make the event happen.
"I really thank Fort Dodge for doing this," Kinney said. "It's such a great opportunity to get the students introduced the community. We have 4,000 students and 1,100 of them live on campus, so they really are a big part of the community. We also had a great event out at the aquatic center last week. Fort Dodge is doing a great job of showcasing the community and our students love it."
Larson said they plan to give back to the community with funds provided by SSMID.
"We're using some of their donation to buy gift certificates and things from the downtown businesses to award back to students" she said. "We want to give back to the businesses who have set up here tonight."