The existence of the popular “Free Food at Yale” Facebook page is testament to the fact that Yalies are dedicated to the craft of procuring free food.

On Thursday night, free food-loving Yalies — and there are many of them — had to look only as far as The Shops at Yale for their evening treats.

The shops on Chapel Street and Broadway held their annual “College Night” on Thursday, an even that has taken place every year for more than a decade. Most shops that take part in the event — which allows local businesses to advertise their products and is open to all local university students — offer free food samples or merchandise.

Yale University Properties Director of Real Estate Asset Management and Marketing David DelVecchio said the event helps both undergraduate and graduate students familiarize themselves with downtown New Haven’s small businesses.

The businesses “see a ton of foot traffic,” Delvecchio said. “Everyone comes in and gets to see the stores. They see some sales tonight, because they do exclusive discounts, but they also offer student discounts year-round. So they see the students come back.”

The event was anchored at Broadway Island, where organizers entered students into a raffle for various prizes, including an iPad. Along Broadway, shops held various activities to encourage students to stop by. FatFace, a clothing store that opened this fall, hosted a Cornhole game, while the popular Mexican restaurant Tomatillo paired up with Patagonia to distribute churros to students who visited the outdoor clothing store.

“We try to do an activity in as many retailers or restaurants as possible, and we match them together where possible,” Delvecchio said.

Commercial businesses and eateries were not the only groups to advertise at College Night. The Shubert Theater, a New Haven theater and landmark founded in 1914, handed out free string bags while advertising its upcoming seasonal program and offered students discounted ticket prices.

“A lot of college students here are very busy, and so they don’t know that they can use their college ID to get half-priced tickets two hours before our shows,” said Kelly Wuzzardo, the theater’s director of education and outreach initiatives.

Although the event takes place near Yale’s residential colleges, college students from any local institutions or graduate programs are allowed to attend. This year, three student bands made up of University of New Haven students performed live music.

Students interviewed cited the discounts and free food as the primary reasons they participated in this year’s College Night.

The Shops at Yale will host the third annual New Haven Chalk Art Festival on Oct. 20. Winners will receive gift cards worth up to $1,000 for various Shops at Yale businesses.

Nick Tabio |