The Big Red Welcome Street Festival, hosted by University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s New Student Enrollment, drew a large crowd of students to the parking lot east of Memorial Stadium on Sunday. 

With multiple local businesses and student organizations registered, the lot was filled with free merchandise, music and laughter.

Due to several COVID-19 restrictions in place for the 2020-21 school year, the festival marked one of the first major in-person organization recruiting events since August 2019. Sophomores and freshmen, who started their time at UNL in the middle of the pandemic, had the chance to join upperclassmen and meet with several organizations for the first time.

“It is really nice to get to see people and canvas clubs I might be interested in,” Conor Maguire, an undeclared freshman, said. 

Due to this being many sophomores' first time at a recruiting event, multiple students said the festival was a great learning opportunity. But a festival would not be a festival if it did not have free merchandise. 

“A lot of people come for the free stuff, but I think they learn a lot more than they would otherwise,” Rhiannon Strazdas, a sophomore architectural studies major, said.

The street festival was the closing of Big Red Welcome, a week-long series of events welcoming students back to campus hosted by NSE.

The street festival also benefits students and local community members as RSOs and Lincoln businesses use the festival to gain members, look for employees and answer any student questions. 

“It generates a lot of new contacts,” Lt. Col. Mark Peer, a commanding officer of Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, said. “As far as students who end up joining the program, it varies from year to year, but it is definitely worth it to be out here.”

Amy Roach, a sophomore international business major and an officer of the UNL Table Tennis Club, said membership has a direct impact on the funding a club receives. 

“We are just excited to get more members at an event like this where everyone is here,” Roach said. “We’ll get to go to more competitions and have more funding, so we are excited just to be here.” 

Alec Rome, a senior broadcasting major and NSE orientation leader, said the festival’s main goal was to ensure freshmen had a good experience. With the festival absent for nearly two years, Rome said he was happy to see campus come alive and “hopefully come out of this pandemic.”

“I am glad to see that people are engaged, glad to see familiar faces from orientation,” Rome said. “We basically want to get a lot of our students connected with campus vendors and student organizations.”