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Southern Heritage Classic adds boost to Memphis economy

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 9:57 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Southern Heritage Classic, with its tens of thousands of fans, adds a healthy boost to the Memphis economy.

A 2019 University of Memphis (UofM) poll of Classic fans found about 53 percent are from the Memphis area. The rest come from all corners of the country. And these fans are ready to have a good time in the Bluff City and spend some money.

Beale Street rolled out the red carpet for Southern Heritage Classic fans Friday night.

“We love it, said Tayatta Cummings of Chicago. “We love it! The hospitality is great! The food is excellent. Had some good rib tips.”

Cummings and her husband Trenton said they’re looking forward to a great football game between Jackson State and Tennessee State University. But Memphis offered another important draw for them.

“I’m uniting with family on my mother’s side,” said Trenton Cummings, excitedly pointing to a group of people waiting in line near B.B King’s club. “I’ve never met them before. There’s my Uncle Reggie over there.”

The 2019 Southern Heritage Classic Market Assessment, a poll conducted by UofM, showed the game and all of its events had a direct economic benefit of $14.6 million dollars for the city, and a total economic benefit of $29.2 million.

It showed the average weekend spend per party is $450. For Demond Matthews, TSU Class of 2003, it’s his first time experiencing everything the Classic has to offer.

“This year is a great year to come to the Classic,” said Matthews. “Tailgating, friends, and family, then the game, concerts, all of it really!”

The UofM study found 83 percent of Classic fans say they come for the tailgating. Sixty-nine percent say it’s all about the game. Thirty percent plan to watch the parade. Twenty-six percent prefer the battle of the bands.

Larry Dodson, Jr., organizer of the Classic’s Orange Mound Parade, said groups nationwide are participating this year.

“We have to go virtual again this year, but this year we were able to get submissions from as far away as Philadelphia and Atlanta,” said Dodson. We have those videos, plus the local bands and participants. The parade is always an inspiration for the community.”

The Classic is officially back. And fans are ready for the rivalry to resume.

“Jackson State!” said Tayatta Cummings. “Go, Jackson State.”

“TSU Always!” countered Desmond Matthews. “We’ve killed them over the years, let’s hope we do it again this year!”

One more interesting statistic from that UofM study is 47 percent of fans say they’re cheering for TSU. Thirty percent says Jackson State. Thirteen percent say they’re rooting for both teams. Ten percent say neither.

The 32nd Southern Heritage Classic kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 11, 2021.

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