Students from Hays’ three higher education institutes — Fort Hays State University, North Central Kansas Technical College and Hays Academy of Hair Design — are invited to a back-to-school celebration in downtown Hays.

The March2Main event will be from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Students will meet on the FHSU Quad at 5:30 and march in a group to Main Street, led by the university marching band, cheerleaders and Victor E. Tiger.

The event is sponsored by Downtown Hays Development Corp. and Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau, and representatives from each school are involved in planning efforts.

March2Main is intended to give students a fun and easy opportunity to become familiar with the downtown businesses located within walking distance of FHSU, said Sara Bloom, executive director of DHDC.

“This is a really great event to introduce students to what is available without it being awkward for them or intimidating in any way,” she said. “This is a chance to go into businesses, meet the owners and see what services are there with no obligation. They can just see what they like, what feels best for them.”

A free meal will be waiting for the first 500 students, and many downtown Hays businesses will participate by offering refreshments or coupons. A total of $3,000 worth of prizes also will be given away.

There are 32 participating businesses, and each student will be given a “bingo card” with different places to visit. They must “black out” their list of 10 stops to be eligible for the prize drawing.

Several big prizes will be announced at the end of Thursday’s event, and remaining prizes will be raffled live Friday on social media. A golden brick worth $200 will be hidden somewhere downtown, as well as three school-themed bricks for each of the higher education facilities worth $100 each.

The event formerly was known as Core2Campus, and the name change is intended to more clearly reflect the evening’s purpose, Bloom said.

“We found that Core2Campus was a little confusing, because it’s backwards from what the event actually does: We go from campus to downtown,” she said. “And we don’t really refer to downtown as the core, although it is.”