After a hot start to the week, temperatures cooled Tuesday, but not so much students didn’t appreciate the free ice cream sandwiches handed out downtown by the Hays Police Department.
The HPD was just one of several organizations with booths lining Main Street as students from the three post-secondary education institutions in Hays — North Central Kansas Technical College, Hays Academy of Hair Design and Fort Hays State University — marched downtown for the annual March to Main.
The event, now in its sixth year, is sponsored by the Downtown Hays Development Corp., Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau and the three schools.
Students, led the by FHSU band, marched from the university campus to the Downtown Pavilion, where they heard from the presidents of each school and learned how to find their bingo cards to collect stamps at businesses for a chance at prizes including coffee makers, a laptop and a big-screen television.
Before dispersing the students in the pavilion to get one of 500 free meals preared by Gella's, Sara Bloom, executive director of the DHDC, recruited FHSU mascot Victor E. Tiger to help toss T-shirts into the crowd, some of which contained gift cards to Taco Shop.
“I mainly just come for the free stuff and the free food,” said Brandi Fritz, an NCK nursing student from WaKeeney. Playing the bingo game was helping her learn what stores are downtown, though.
The event has been such a success, FHSU President Tisa Mason said she adapted the idea when she became president of Valley City State University in North Dakota in 2014. This was the first March to Main she has participated in as president of FHSU.
“Anything that we can do to continue to enhance town-and-gown relationships, to help get our students into the small businesses that will help them feel part of the community,” she said.
Leland Olive, owner of Couture for Men and Women, said the event does help bring students into his business, especially on the men’s side.
“It gives you a lot of exposure. Not many sales, but hopefully they come back at a later time,” he said.
Near his store, the Hays Public Library had a table set up on the corner where staff was giving away goodie bags for the students and stamping their cards. In the library itself, staff gave t-shirts to those showing their library cards or signing up for one.
Adult Department Librarian Samantha Gill said the library uses the March to Main to promote its digital services such as Overdrive and Hoopla.
“We’ve done this the past six years and it’s always been a success,” Gill said.
Ashli Sarapa, a student at Hays Academy of Hair Design from Salina, said she appreciated the event included more than FHSU.
“I think when everyone thinks of Hays, they think of only Fort Hays, and it’s nice they involved NCK and the Hays Academy as well,” she said.
She was joined by classmates Brianna Dirks, Kaitton Glover and Mattie Glover, all of Larned, and Brooke Peterson, Salina.
“This is really nice because we don’t really know the area down here, and this is definitely helping. So now we know where to buy clothes,” Kaitton Glover said.