On the first day of classes, Orchard Street at Union South was converted in to a strip mall of sorts, where waves of students came to explore the variety of vendors offering free food, apparel and miscellaneous accessories.

Badger Fest welcomed all students to explore both local and national businesses alike. Onsite vendors included EatStreet, Green Cab of Madison, Lotsa, Pink, Guayaki and more. The friendly vendors drew in large waves of students eager to collect as much free merchandise as possible, and to learn about each vendor’s product.

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Some of the vendors came with nothing more than a booth, free samples and a great pitch, while others — such as Pink and Aerie — rolled in with RVs and pop-up shops.

But a flashy display wasn’t required to draw in large crowds. Guyaki spokesperson Chelsea Otterness drew in students by being enthusiastic — and offering college students a free and well-needed caffeinated drink.

Guyaki is a beverage that comes from the holly tree, which creates the yerba mate leaves. The drink is perfect for studying, especially when mid-terms begin. A single can has roughly the same amount of caffeine as two cups of coffee, Otterness said.

“It has the compound theobromine, which makes you feel blissful and good,” Otterness said. “AKA, tastes good, keeps you focused and you don’t get the jitters.”

Aidan McClain/The Badger Herald

There were more food vendors at the fest, including Lotsa, which is currently hiring brand ambassadors, and Klondike Cheese Co., a family owned Wisconsin business. But the fest also had vendors offering services, such as Green Cab of Madison.

This company is a ride sharing program similar to Uber and Lyft, but has a very important difference — there are no surge prices. Green Cab spokesperson Amanda Schmidt convinced students that Green Cab of Madison is the perfect example of “what you see is what you get,” making it a perfect transportation option for college students on a budget.

Aidan McClain/The Badger Herald

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“Green Cab is Madison’s least expensive ride sharing company,” Schmidt said. “What you pay today, you’ll pay tomorrow no matter the weather, Badger football games or Freakfest.”

Badger Fest offered a lot of free merchandise, but it also offered a large poster selection where, for a small price, students could sift through a variety of themed posters. Posters were small, large and every size in-between. Some of the themes included music, movies, cities and art. The selections were so varied that the poster sale seemed to never have a decline in interested buyers.

Aidan McClain/The Badger Herald

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Badger Fest gave a warm community welcome to new and returning students alike. Students that attended left knowing more about Madison businesses and had bags full of miscellaneous promotional items — but for college students, anything free is important. The university sponsors many fun events, so if Badger Fest slipped the radar, keep an eye out for events to come.