Posted by: Ted D. Davis
Images by: McDonald’s Magic City Classic presented by Coca-Cola
Birmingham gets set to host the annual Magic City Classic on Saturday, October 29, 2016 at Birmingham’s Legion field, now in its 75th year of existence, the clash of state historically black football powers Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University which promises to boost local revenues, provide a bevy of activity and food choices to attendee’s, and field a game that particularly in the last ten years has provided drama, intrigue, and plenty of exciting offensive.
The game itself has long provided a healthy economic boost to the city, with an estimated 18.6 million dollar impact in 2015, and an average of 20 million over the last ten years. Attendees eat in restaurants in metropolitan and greater Birmingham, seek fashion alternatives at local shopping malls Brookwood Village, The Riverchase Galleria, The Shops of the Summit, and The Shops of Grandriver among others, lodge in the myriad hotels around the city, and buy staples such as gasoline, foodstuffs, and pay admission to the game and some related activities, which provides the bulk of the aforementioned figure.
So significant is the economic impact of the game that on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 the Birmingham City Council approved allocating six hundred seventy-five thousand dollars to its sponsorship, and the management team, Bruno Event Team expects similar numbers to the 50,000 attendees at last year’s contest (the Classic boasts the highest attendance in the country for a football game between two historically black colleges). And if the revenue it generates weren’t enough, the Classic began giving to the less fortunate in 2015 with a donation drive for battered women and children, and homeless men, women, and children in conjunction with Magic City Celebration Festival which includes educational exhibits, health and wellness vendors, voter registration, and musical entertainment. As you can see, the Magic City Classic enriches provides far more than entertainment to the city’s residents.
What is perhaps far more far reaching is the impact and significance the game has on and for Birmingham’s black community. While the game and its related events are draws for and attended by people of all racial groups, the game is particularly special for the people group by whom it was originally founded, African Americans. Alabama State and Alabama A&M first played a football game in 1924, with first classic played at Birmingham’s Legion field in 1946, where the event has been help without interruption since. The game’s impact on blacks has always most prominently been its effect on the area immediately surrounding the venue. As editor-in-chief of the Birmingham View and Weld contributor Vickii Howell, a transplant to the state in the early nineties who was not a Classic enthusiast reflects on her first experience attending the event in 2005:
“Outside (the stadium) was a party all it’s on. Many of the people hanging out in RV’s and under tents showed little interest in the game. In fact, to them, the tailgating is the main event. The whole parking lot felt like big family reunion with friends, frats and sorors, full of barbecued food, spirits, music and good times for anyone who wanted to come hang out with them. For others, especially youth, it was a fashion show of the latest urban trends, from high heels to Timberlands” (weldbham.com).
That someone who is not a native of the state would make that assessment, which is spot on its description of the event, is evident of its tremendous cultural impact. The game and related events are open to all but its primary fan base is African American, and as the writer himself can confirm, the event is indeed a magnificent fashion show of current fashion trends, an explosion of incredible indigenous dishes of various preparations, and a party featuring meet and greet among alumni of both universities, national celebrities, football fans, and people looking to have to a good time. Ms. Howell also mentioned that parking for the event, much of which is hosted by area home owners, not only provides safe storage for one’s vehicle, but in many instances free delicious food provided by the parking providers.
Likewise, the game is a testament to the smashing success of each universities mission to provide an educated citizenry to the world. Alabama A&M University, located in Normal, Alabama, provides baccalaureate and graduate studies in fields not limited to Logistics and Procurement, teaching, research, and public service whose graduates are among the leaders in their fields. Likewise, Alabama State University, located in Montgomery, Alabama, “provides learning experiences designed to develop student’s intellectual abilities, as well as their social, moral, cultural, and ethical values”. It is with the wealth earned via the education that they’ve received that many attendees make the tremendous economic and cultural impact that they do. In addition, these individuals serve as flag bearers for the youth of the city of Birmingham that they can attend a historically black university, get a quality education, have a great time socially with what becomes a second family, and be a lifelong member of the culture of graduates and networks of these two fine schools.
The highly anticipated Magic City Classic Parade provides an opportunity particularly for area urban (largely black) grade and high school students to display their musical and choreography skills. The event, commands a crowd of some 100,000 attendees, is held on the morning prior to the game and serves as a sort of involuntary audition for State and A&M band directors. The various parties hosted throughout the city give adults the opportunity to celebrate the schools victory and dance the night away in the bliss of the fun they had at the game, win or lose. And events such as the Natural Hair & Health Expo provide the largely African American attendees with free health screenings, natural hair information, and host of other ethnic related information and supplies.