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The 76th Magic City Classic Festivities Didn’t Fall Short of Fanfare Despite Sudden Drop in Weather Temperature

During the parade that kicked off the Magic City Classic festivities on Saturday, a hard rain fell on the huddled masses of revellers who gathered downtown to see area high school marching bands, city councilors and other public figures parade through the cold, soaked streets.

For those who ventured out into the dreary October morning, which marked the start of the 76th instalment of the historic rivalry, the rain wasn’t enough to ruin the fun. Children and adults could be seen cheering, jockeying for a better spot to see the floats and catching candy that was being flung into the crowd.

By 11 a.m. the rain had subsided and thousands of people from all over the country began to flood into the area surrounding Legion Field, which has served as the venue for the Alabama A&M and Alabama State football games, the nation’s largest HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) event which draws upwards of 200,000 people annually.

“We’ve only missed two of these games in the last 19 years,” Jerald Lane said as he dropped a basketful of battered catfish filets into the deep fryer near the back of his RV that had been parked outside of Legion Field since Wednesday.

Lane and his family make the annual trip from Aurora, Colorado and said that coming to the Magic City Classic is something akin to visiting a family. “It’s all about the camaraderie. It’s all about the people. It’s one of those things where if someone is walking by and they want something to eat, we’re going to feed you,” Lane said as he handed out a few pieces of catfish that he had pulled from the fryer.

Every year, people bring their RVs to Legion Field and set up camp days ahead of the football game. It’s a party unlike anywhere else with music and the smoky smell of BBQ and meats on the grill set the scene, despite being a biting cold day.

“I’ve been coming to the Classic since I was a little girl,” said Charise Lyons, a native of Birmingham and supporter of the festivities. “I have family that graduated from both schools. I can’t remember a time I didn’t come to the classic…For me I get to see friends and family I don’t normally see. It’s all about being able to reunite.“

Her friend, Cheryl Covington, said it wouldn’t be the Classic weekend unless it’s cold. “The Classic has always been a tradition whether it’s hot or cold; people are going to come out either way…I used to be in the marching band in high school so I’ve been coming since I got involved then.”

Before the game got started, councilors took to the field to present both universities with checks for $10,000.

“This is 76 years that the Classic has been in existence. It’s between two historically black colleges, that have been rivals that whole time,” Councilor Sheila Tyson said while standing on the sidelines. “You have to understand what that means for the community and the children from low-income communities. This inspires them to go to college. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about changing people’s minds and changing people’s lives and making their futures brighter.”

Tyson shares Legion Field’s district with newly elected Councilor Darrell O’Quinn who said he was excited to be a part of the event. “This is an amazing event…This is great for District 5 of course with lots of economic activity happening. It’s great to have people from all over the United States enjoying the festivities,” O’Quinn said.

Alabama State would go on to win the defensive battle in which they scored early in the game with an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Alabama A&M leads the all-time series 40-38-3. After the game rapper T.I. entertained the crowd who stuck around with some of his hits from a stage that was set up on the field.

“This is the kind of things, especially with young ones, to show them the way to have fun,” Lane said, summarizing the importance of the Classic weekend. “This is what it’s all about.”

This article is a contribution from Cody Owens (coowens@birminghamal.gov) in the Birmingham City Council Public Information Office. For more information please contact 205.254.2294.