Terra Cotta on State Street bustled with students and city residents enjoying the free food, entertainment and giveaways at CommuniKey’s Downtown Student Kickoff on Saturday.
The event was planned and hosted by Mayor Matt Ryan, city officials and the founders of Communikey, an organization that sells cards giving students discounts to local businesses.
“Over the summer we won the [annual BLDC-EAP Business Plan Competition] through the city and formed a relationship with city officials,” said Dave Simmel, chief strategy and technical officer of CommuniKey. “We decided to collaborate on the event to welcome students Downtown.”
The kickoff included live music, a fashion show and a hot dog eating contest, in addition to more than 40 businesses tabling to increase buzz. Among the businesses represented were hair stylists, bakeries and attorneys.
The event was initially scheduled to be outdoors, but the afternoon rain forced coordinators to move the kickoff inside.
Simmel, who graduated from Binghamton University in the spring of 2011, was surprised by the turnout considering the weather.
“We were a little worried less people would show up with it being indoors and the rain, but we still had close to 500 people in attendance,” Simmel said. “We went through a lot of plates.”
Alex Racketa and Kathie Boice represented Hinman, Howard & Kattell law firm at the kickoff.
“We just want to let everyone know we’re here,” Boice said.
Racketa, a 2008 BU graduate, said she thinks students have been more active Downtown recently.
“There seems to be a somewhat recent increase in student presence Downtown, especially at night,” Racketa said. “This is definitely a good thing.”
Noah Cooper and Steve Gleason, representatives of the M4 Project, gave away free condoms, lubricants and information.
“This was incredible,” Gleason said. “We’ve done public information events about three or four times and this was by far the most successful.”
Simmel said he hopes CommuniKey will encourage students to explore local businesses.
“I think Communikey and events like this will slowly change the culture for students,” he said. “We just want to expose students to what’s really going on in Downtown Binghamton.”
He added that CommuniKey is growing rapidly.
“Last year 850 students had Communikey memberships, and this year we already sold over 500,” he said.
According to Simmel, CommuniKey intends to host similar events in the near future.
“The dates aren’t set, but you can expect more events throughout the year from Communikey,” he said.