The annual merchant fair at Northwest Missouri State University is an opportunity for local business owners to introduce themselves to the 1,000-plus freshmen that recently flowed into town.
Towards the end of each summer, Maryville finds its population growing by roughly a third, which means a lot to local businesses.
The purpose of the merchant fair is not just to hand out trinkets, but to get the word out to the students of what is available.
"We're trying to get people to come out," Dave Cuenca of Applebees said. "Each year we have new themes, new ways to attract customers.
"From an economic standpoint, the students make up a huge part of what we need to do to be successful."
Some things that have been added because of the influx of potential customers are Trivia Tuesday and Karaoke Wednesday. For the year-round parents, kids under 12 eat free on Mondays and Thursdays.
The impact of the return of students for Applebees, along with many area businesses, also includes employees.
At the restaurant, for instance, Cuenca said that 93 percent of employees are Northwest students.
Mike Herring at Hy-Vee said that the fact that many students become employed locally helps the economy just as much as the money they spend here does.
"The addition of all of the jobs universally provides opportunities," Herring said. "It helps the students to have work, and gives us another 5,000 potential customers."
In their first year of operation, Ryan Schmeltz at GetFit 24 said that students can provide a big part of his business.
The gym, located just south of the Mary Mart shopping center, offers four-month memberships - roughly the span of a semester - at a discounted rate.
"The students definitely help businesses boom," Schmeltz said. "And they tell friends, who tell friends and so on. It helps a lot."
But the return of college students is not entirely about making money and finding employment.
Many see the return as a way to continue efforts to help the community.
Lynette Harbin, Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Nodaway County, said that the organization benefits greatly from students becoming "bigs."
"September and October are the busiest time of the year," Harbin said. "The students are excited and want to get involved."
Harbin said that last year, 25 "bigs" joined the organization, and she had well over 30 express interest this year. Of those, she's hoping for at least half of them to actually become involved.
Another service organization at the fair was the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Local FCA representative Trevor Nashleanas said that the new students provide an opportunity to spread their ministry.
Page 2 of 2 - "Whether it's economically, spiritually, or anything else, the doors are wide open," Nashleanas said. "It increases the diversity. Their minds are open and eager."
Chris Komorech, youth director at the First United Methodist Church also attended the fair with service in mind.
The youth program at the church works whenever they can to help out people who can't always help themselves.
Most of the work includes construction and roofing, but Komorech said that they will do just about anything to help, including free meals on Wednesday nights at the church at the corner of First and Main Streets.
"I think that this is a generation that wants to make a difference in the world," Komorech said. "And we are offering them the opportunity."