Bright Spot: Southern Heritage Classic brings big fun to Bluff City

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you don't have plans to attend this year's Southern Heritage Classic, now is the time to rethink what you'll be doing classic weekend.

Jackson State and Tennessee State football teams are the stars of the Southern Heritage Classic but the excitement around the game draws the crowd.

"I say it's like the Super Bowl," founder Fred Jones said. "You got a football game, you got the halftime and you got things built around it."

There are concerts, a fashion show, and the tailgating at Tiger Lane is epic.

"You can smile and have a good time with everybody, even if you don't know a person. If you want to eat, have a good time, you want to play cards."

It's a celebration of culture — fraternities, sororities, alumni and family legacy. Jones says those elements are key to the Classic.

'We started with the football game but it has evolved into so much, and the family has been the reason why I think we've been around this long. People are so excited about being involved," he said.

The big game is more than just a fun time in the city. Since its inception in 1990, the Southern Heritage Classic has contributed $11.8 million to the HBCUs that have participated.

"We've been able to consistently support them as they support the student athletes and other programs at the schools," Jones said.

With thousands expected at the Liberty Bowl and Fairgrounds, Jones attends weekly meetings with police and city officials discussing security and traffic.

And all of that traffic means a lot of money in Memphis. Jones says annually, Classic attendees leave about $21 million in the city coffers.

"Whether I'm at Stein's for lunch or wherever I am, people are talking about the Classic and they smile and they feel good. You know that you've created something that makes people happy."

TSU is the home team for the game this year but no matter the outcome, Memphis — the home town — is always a winner on Classic weekend.

The Southern Heritage Classic weekend is Sept. 6-8.