When it comes to the start of classes each year at Western Kentucky University, there's an opportunity for savvy local businesses to attract new customers and potential employees. 

That's the goal of the university's annual Welcome Back WKU festival. As many as 79 businesses passed out information, food and other free items to students on WKU's South Lawn on Wednesday. 

Katie Dykes coordinates programs and events for the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, which plans the event. Dykes said the festival allows businesses to get in front of a large audience to promote their products, services and even job and internship openings. It's good for the students too, she said. 

"We just want to make sure that they're aware of everything this community has to offer," she said. 

Brad Niemeier, who recently opened Azzip Pizza, was among business owners passing out information to passersby. 

"We just want to reach out to the students, let them know where we're at," Niemeier said. "If we can get people to come try us out, then they'll definitely be back." 

Azzip Pizza lets customers hand pick sauces, meats and vegetable toppings for their pizza, which cooks in under two-and-a-half minutes, Niemeier said. He added that people seem to love "the taste, the speed of service and the personalization of it." 

The business is located at 651 U.S. 31-W By-pass, and Niemeier said the he wants it to get ingrained in the community. 

"We're glad to be here," he said. 

Monterra Thornton, a freshman from Bowling Green, said the event is good for students. 

"It's a good event to let them know what's all around Bowling Green," she said.

Thornton, who also learned about various job opportunities, called it a "good working opportunity" for new students.

Samantha Jackson, a marketing coordinator with Ale-8-One, passed bottles of the ginger ale out of an icy cooler to students looking to cool off from the heat. She was nearly out of drinks less than an hour after the event started. 

She said the company expanded distribution to Bowling Green in April.

"We are here to support the students at WKU," Jackson said. "It's a great way to get in front of students." 

Russellville junior Logan Johnson stopped by the tent for a drink and was enticed by the other free food offered at the festival. 

"I think it's something that can help people feel more comfortable with walking around campus and feeling at home," he said. 

— Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

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Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

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