BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Thousands ascend upon Orlando each year for the Florida Blue Florida Classic.
A weekend of events is highlighted with the football game between Florida’s two largest historically Black universities – Florida A&M University (FAMU) and Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) at Camping World Stadium, formerly the Florida Citrus Bowl.
The Florida Classic is arguably the largest event in Black college football despite losing some luster in recent years as game attendance has fallen.
From 1999 to 2006, the Florida Classic drew record crowds of more than 70,000 fans including an individual game record of 73,358 in 2003.
In recent years, the game has drawn 40,000 or more fans, including an announced crowd of 45,372 fans this year. The attendance last year was slightly higher with 45, 728.
According to reports, the Florida Classic has an economic impact as low as $700,000 to as high as $35 million for Orlando and its surrounding communities during the three-day weekend.
“I would definitely make a wild guess of north of a million. You have so many people coming here for the weekend,” said Scott Herring, Florida Citrus Sports ‘s chief financial officer. Florida Citrus Sports operates Camping World Stadium.
Ties to both teams
The Florida Classic, which is held the weekend before Thanksgiving, is still a big draw for students, fans, alumni, faculty, businesses and entrepreneurs.
“It’s always good to come to and worth coming to the Florida Classic. It’s the No. 1 event of the year.
B-CU has been winning lately. Hopefully, FAMU could change that today,” Dr. Gina Beckles said prior to the game.
B-CU later defeated FAMU 39-19. It was the Daytona Beach-based team’s sixth year in a row winning the Florida Classic.
Beckles attended the game and has ties to both schools. She is a third-generation FAMU alumnus and was once employed at B-CU.
She said, “I taught at B-CU for 25 years. It will always have a place in my heart. I’m still a Rattler.
FAMU is my alma matter. It’s been weird with B-CU winning the Classic every year lately.’’
Many vendors come from around the country to sell food, clothing and other items.
Papa Dious is a T-shirt vendor originally from Senegal who now lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. He has been selling his T-shirts at the Classic for the past 20 years.
“I’m out here every year from Friday to Sunday. Business is always good. I cannot complain. I think that the buying power has gone down in recent years, but it’s picking back up since recovery from the last recession,’’ he explained.
Donald Noble of Fort Pierce was a first-time vendor at the Florida Classic this year.
Noble sold barbecue chicken and ribs from his Fork it Over food truck.
“Business was definitely great on Saturday. It was slow on Friday. This is definitely one of the events that I got to come too and take part of on an annual basis,” Noble remarked.
Good music, good food
Thousands of people still just tailgate all throughout game day.
Bethune-Cookman fan Barbara McKnight of Orlando stated, “It’s definitely the thing to do. It’s a lot of fun, good music, good food and time with family and friends.”
“We tailgate the entire game. We do each and every year. We’ve been out here for the past 12 years.
We don’t miss it. It’s still the event to come to each year. I’ve had a lot of family that have attended FAMU,” echoed Rattlers fan Richard Alford of Hollywood.