By Stephanie Collins

If there’s one word guaranteed to catch the ears of a preoccupied college students, it’s “free.” Combine that word with “fun” and they’ll be starry eyed.

Those two words sum up what the annual CityFest event is all about: free fun.

Going on its eighth year, the 2011 CityFest will once again take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, in the heart of EKU’s campus, Powell Corner, presented by University Book and Supply.

Co-sponsored by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and Eastern’s Student Affairs, CityFest is an opportunity for businesses around the area to market their products. Mary Raider, assistant director of Career Services, said the event also allows students to become acquainted with the city of Richmond.

“They are here [CityFest] to promote business and have fun,” Raider said. “It is always a really fun time and the free food is the biggest draw.”

Around 12 restaurants are expected to attend the event and are sure to bring their most popular treats.

The Regal Beagle, a new restaurant and bar on Main Street, opened its doors in the beginning of May. Chad Gordon, owner, plans to see an increase in their already rising number of Eastern patrons after attending the event.

“We enjoy doing a lot with the chamber in any way we can,” Gordon said. “We’ll have T-shirts, fried green beans and other appetizers on hand.”

Another restaurant will be joining in on the action for the first time. Felicia Mays, manager at The Grind, said they have decided to “get out there and meet the community.”

“We’ll be doing our Big E challenge this fall at the restaurant, which is a food-eating contest involving a 6-pound burger,” Mays said. “We’ll definitely be pushing that promotion as well as giving out pens, T-shirts and more free stuff.”

In the past, event planners have seen about 85 percent of Eastern students and faculty in their total audience and expect an attendance of more than 2,000 people this year, said Karmen Vaughn, events director at the chamber.

“We [Eastern and the chamber] help one another in any way we can,” Vaughn said. “With the extra funding that EKU is able to contribute, it’s great they are here to help.”

Vaughn said the event will have plenty of entertainment, including a clogging group, Laura’s School of Dance, the EKU Dance Team and Elite Martial Arts.  

“It’s more of a festival type of atmosphere,” Raider said. “Students tend to return after attending the year before because it is simply so much fun.”

Freshmen must attend the event, but do not seem opposed to the requirement.

“I haven’t heard of it until now,” said Madison Warrick, an 18-year-old freshman from Fairfield, Ohio. “But, I mean, if there’s free food, I’ll go!”