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Southern Heritage Classic: The show goes on and on…

Ten years ago, Fred Jones Jr. was gearing up to host version No. 12 of what has become a mega-event, the annual cultural celebration known as the Southern Heritage Classic. by Tarrin McGhee
Special to Tri-State Defender

Ten years ago, Fred Jones Jr. was gearing up to host version No. 12 of what has become a mega-event, the annual cultural celebration known as the Southern Heritage Classic.

Around the same time, the United States was hit with the devastating 9/11 attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Jones, founder of the Southern Heritage Classic, remembers it like yesterday.

“I know exactly where I was – on my way to do an interview with Bobby O’Jay on WDIA,” said Jones.

“I received a phone call from someone asking if I had heard. As we were talking, the second plane hit the tower and later during the interview, another plane hit the Pentagon.”

At that point, plans had already been set in motion and “The Classic” was set to take place the following weekend, just a few days away. Game tickets were selling fast, entertainment had been booked, and some tail-gaiting activities had already begun. The event was shaping up to be one of the best.

Suddenly, Jones and his team were faced with a tough decision.

“A lot of people were already in town for the event and we were looking at a huge financial loss,” said Jones.  

“I was unsure about what to do. The world didn’t know what to do.”

Jones ultimately decided to postpone the celebration that year. Like much of the country, he since has been able to rebound from the historic turn of events.

Fast forward to September 2011 and Jones is looking forward to the celebration of 22 years of the Southern Heritage Classic, with an exciting lineup of events starting Thursday (Sept. 8) evening and culminating with the highly anticipated football game that is set to take place Saturday at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

“Every year is a like a milestone for me because we started with a blank piece of paper. There was no email, no such thing as Facebook. We have come through it all, we continue to work hard and each year we are able to enhance the experience,” Jones said.

“It makes me happy to see other people happy. I’m from Memphis and the pride factor that the Southern Heritage Classic brings to our community is amazing – there’s nothing like it.”

As in years past, Jones said Classic fans can expect what they always get: “Nothing but the best.”

Planned events and activities on the itinerary for this year’s celebration include two Classic Concerts, with performing artists KEM, Anthony David and The O’Jays; an All-Star Comedy Jam; Classic Parade; Classic College Tour; and beauty and fashion shows.

The Southern Heritage Classic has witnessed tremendous growth since its start in 1990, attracting tens of thousands of visitors who look forward to the event each year. Jones attributes the success and longevity to the consistency, familiarity, high quality and positive nature of the annual family-friendly celebration.

“People have grown to love ‘The Classic’ because they know what they are going to get and they know that they are going to have a great time,” said Jones.

“Our goal is not to try to top the previous year, each year stands on its own and 2011 is no different.”

From talking to people, Jones gauges that excitement already has hit the amazing level for this year’s event.

“With both teams coming off impressive wins, everyone is really hyped about the game and related activities,” said Jones.

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