Businesses prepare for boom during Southern Heritage Classic, Cooper-Young Fest

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The countdown is on as Memphis prepares for two major events happening Saturday only a few blocks from each other.

Merchants and vendors are preparing for what they expect to be a very profitable weekend with the 30th Annual Southern Heritage Classic at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and the 32nd Annual Cooper-Young Festival.

"Hopefully we're going to be really, really busy," said Betty Maxwell of Maxwell Concessions. "I'm expecting to be really, really busy."

Maxwell had a positive attitude Friday while getting her concession stand ready, counting on extra dollars from attendees of the Cooper-Young Festival and the Southern Heritage Classic.

"We're ramped up already, so we're going to be ready for them," she said. "I'm hoping they will have some coming over here."

There's definitely something in the air, and it's not just the smell of meat on the grill. It's the sweet smell of money expected to pour in for merchants and vendors, as thousands of people descend on a few square blocks in Midtown this Saturday.

"It could be anywhere from several thousand dollars to a $10,000 difference, depending on the weather, the turnout and everything," said Brandon Ellenburg, manager of Central BBQ.

At Central BBQ, they've been cooking heavy all week in preparation for a jump in business with Classic and Festival-goers rubbing shoulders.

"You know, we like being busy, makes the time go by, and everybody gets a few extra bucks in their wallet," Ellenburg said. "So, it's not a bad day."

At the corner of East Parkway and Young Avenue, Wayne Fields is looking to make some extra bucks as well.

"I have awesome ribs," he said. "They melt in your mouth, not in your hand."

Fields has been cooking for Southern Heritage Classic fans for 15 years but hopes festival-goers will give him a try, too.

"It's more of the Southern Heritage other than the Cooper-Young," he said. "But the Cooper-Young serves me pretty good as well, and I enjoy them. They're really good people."

Or you could be like Stennis and Dennis Gibbs, brothers who plan on attending one special event only: the Classic.

"We just enjoy family and friends today and tomorrow," Stennis said. "Then after that, we start getting ready for next year."

The Southern Heritage Classic reportedly adds more than $21 million to the Memphis economy each year.

The Cooper-Young Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Traffic will be heavy in the area, so attendees should get an early start for the Festival, the Classic or both.

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