Slow start for new festival Regional Chamber hopes will help keep college graduates in St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

Slow start for new festival Regional Chamber hopes will help keep college graduates in St. Louis

Aug 27, 2016

A college outreach event organized by the St. Louis Regional Chamber got off to a slow start Saturday.

The business association held a new festival downtown to introduce college students to what St. Louis has to offer off campus. The hope is that more of them will stay in the area after they graduate if they get to know the region.

“Really what we’re trying to do is get them out of their bubbles and getting a chance to see a little bit of what St. Louis has to offer so St. Louis, when they get to be juniors and seniors, becomes a real consideration as a place to live, work, play and invest,” said Valerie Patton, vice-president of inclusion and talent attraction at the St. Louis Regional Chamber.

But only a handful of students had shown up by 11 a.m., an hour into the festival.

“College students don’t usually get up and moving before 10 o’clock in the morning so we’re thinking hopefully between 11 and 12 we’ll begin to see more college students,” Patton said, noting that this is the first year for the festival.

“I am very highly excited and encouraged that one, we have put a stake in the ground to have a regional college festival and two, they will come.  So I think they will be here eventually. And if not this year then next year.”

Valerie Patton is vice-president of inclusion and talent attraction at the St. Louis Regional Chamber.
Credit Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Students needed a college ID or email address to get into the event, which had a stage for live performances, a climbing wall and numerous booths to connect with internships and things to do for fun, from the Saint Louis Football Club to the chess club and roller derby.

Purina, TREX, Edward Jones and Monsanto all had tables at the festival, as did Trailnet and the Fox Theater.

The event was a good fit for Samuel Wui, who recently moved to the area to go to law school at Saint Louis University.

“I don’t really know much about the town, so because of these booths I get to know what’s out there and what I can do. So yeah, I think it’s a good informer to people who are new to St. Louis,” Wui said.

Samuel Wui is a first year law student at Saint Louis University.

Fifth year SLU physical therapy student Miranda Sponeman and her friends were drawn to the event by the promise of free things on Facebook. She’s from Edwardsville but hadn’t heard much about roller derby before.

“I think maybe it needs to be advertised a little more to get more people here. And maybe be later in the day,” Sponeman said.

The festival was scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“I think that this is good that they’re doing this, especially if they have the intention of keeping people in the area. I think it’s a good idea. Because I like the St. Louis area I just never really explored it. So I think this is a good idea,” said Melvina Chaney, a senior at Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville.

Melvina Chaney, Keelah Washington and Danaya Burnett are upperclassmen at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
Credit Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Chaney and her friends Keelah Washington and Danaya Burnett made the trip to St. Louis from SIUE after they saw flyers on campus. They planned to go to another festival at Harris Stowe afterwards.

Washington thought it was a good idea to have a festival specifically for college students.

“It might take them a couple of years to get the kind of crowd that they’re going for, but I think that will end up working out. I’m from Chicago. They do this kind of thing a lot and it usually brings people around,” Washington said.

The new college festival is part of the St. Louis Regional Chamber’s effort to make the metropolitan area one of the top ten most educated by 2025.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.