For the second time, Holcomb High School students, staff, alumni and fans will gather for a good cause at the Longhorn Festival, a carnival-meets-food drive event at the school’s stadium parking lot.

The event kicked off last year as a celebration of the school’s 100th graduating class, a precursor to homecoming and host for Wheatland Electric’s Cram the Van food drive competition for area schools, said Holcomb USD 363 superintendent Scott Myers.

This year the festival continues with more vendors and activities as guests celebrate what it means to be a Longhorn, Myers said. The party runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the stadium. Wheatland will provide a free hamburger and hot dog meal and Pepsi will provide free drinks from 5 to 8 p.m. amid a myriad of activities, including face painting, bounce houses, carnival games, a train from the Holcomb Recreation Commission, fire trucks from the Holcomb Fire Department and the homecoming bonfire.

For the second year, the festival will also host Wheatland’s Cram the Van food drive, which gathers food for those who need it and gives Holcomb’s four schools a chance to compete for a $1,000 prize — $500 each provided from Wheatland and Holcomb USD 363 — given to the school that brings in the largest total donation by weight.

“Wiley Elementary won it last year," Myers said. "So this year, year two, the principals are saying ‘We need to win too.’ So, I think the competition will grow.”

Last year, Wiley Elementary used the money to for project-based learning, including school supplies and a design on a playground fence, Myers said. The food itself was distributed to community members in need just before Christmas, he said.

This year, the food raised will be used to start a food pantry and backpack program spearheaded by Holcomb High School teacher Amy Wickwar, one of the recipients of the district’s Fail Forward mini-grants distributed earlier this month, Myers said.

Taking place days before Holcomb High School’s homecoming game, the Longhorn Festival is meant to include the whole community in celebrating USD 363 and Holcomb itself, Myers said. It brings people together, but it also makes them feel a part of something — part of the community and part of the goings-on at the school district, he said.

“It builds into the whole thing. It came up completely separate from homecoming, but why not? Why not do them together? Because homecoming, particularly in small town America, is really a celebration for the entire community. So how do you get more people out? Well, involve everybody,” Myers said.