As Kent State University students wrap up their campus move-ins this weekend, local restaurants and retailers will be ready to show off their goods and services downtown.
Today, the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce and Central Portage County Visitors and Convention Bureau, in collaboration with KSU's Office of Student Success Program, is hosting the annual Discover Downtown event where businesses throughout the city set up tables, tents and booths down Main Street to give the new students a taste of what Kent has to offer.
READ RELATED COVERAGE: Kent State University reaches capacity for freshman enrollment this fall
Chamber Executive Director Lori Wemhoff said downtown businesses are encouraged to participate and take advantage of the target audience being brought to their front doors.
Trolley Tours of Cleveland's Lolly the Trolley will shuttle students downtown from campus via East Erie Street between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., dropping them off at the corner of Water and Main streets.
"Every year Discover Downtown gets bigger and better," said Michelle Hartman, chamber board president. "The feedback we get from the businesses on how great it is to have the students brought downtown to see what's available to them has been extraordinary."
Following tradition, sponsors will be giving away free hot dogs, chips and bottles of water donated by ACME Fresh Market #7. Wemhoff said nearly 800 hot dogs and other snacks along with 45 cases worth of water were handed out last year.
With a maximum freshman enrollment around 4,200 settling at KSU this weekend, the event has potential to be one of the largest yet.
KSU hit capacity for the first-year students in June.
T. David Garcia, Kent State's associate vice president for enrollment management, said earlier this summer the news reflects a slew of firsts for KSU.
The 4,200 freshmen expected for fall 2013 is about 200 more than were accepted in fall 2012.
Applications for freshman enrollment at the Kent campus this fall were at the "highest ever recorded" with about 22,000 received, Garcia said, which is about 900 more than were received last fall.
This fall's freshman class is also the brightest on record.
The incoming group brings a cumulative 3.3 grade-point average, with nearly 75 percent having at least a 3.0. Those figures are also record highs, Garcia said, and "new territory" for the university.
KSU set a record for student enrollment in 2012 after logging 42,513 students throughout its eight-campus system, with more than 27,000 of those at the main Kent campus alone. Those numbers secured KSU's standing as the second-largest public university in the state behind The Ohio State University.
KSU spokesman Eric Mansfield said it's too soon to determine if the school might break total enrollment records again as those numbers aren't officially tallied until the 15th day of class.
"We're energized to see our students return for the fall semester both because of the academic success they bring to the classroom and also because their college experience this year includes exciting changes to our campus, including the opening of the Esplanade, and the continued development of downtown," Mansfield said. "We believe Kent is the America's next great college town, and this year's returning and incoming students will create a unique and positive community on and around our great campus."
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