Fans help kick off Southern Heritage Classic weekend - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Fans help kick off Southern Heritage Classic weekend

Tailgaters outside at the SHC (Source: WMC Action News 5) Tailgaters outside at the SHC (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Excitement is growing for Saturday's Southern Heritage Classic between Jackson State University and Tennessee State University.

Tailgating began Thursday, with spots sold out more than a week in advance.

SLIDESHOW: Tailgaters enjoy SHC weekend

Among the tailgaters was former Grizzlies Head Chef Chris Beavers. Even at 5 a.m. Friday, his grill was going strong.

Beavers is opening his own restaurant, Best Friends Grill, but offered some advice for weekend tailgaters.

"They need to have some very good charcoal, they need to have some good seasonings, and what my biggest grilling tip I think is, is don't put anything on the grill until your charcoals are completely white," Beavers said. "A lot of people, as soon as the fire dies down, they want to put the meat on but you gotta wait until those coals are white so that meat can smoke."

Visitors from all over the country were up bright and early, excited to take part in the festivities all weekend long.

"I love the Classic. I love the culture, you know, the camaraderie, you know, the people are so nice," one fan from St. Louis said.

Former Dallas Cowboy Ed "Too Tall" Jones even joined in the fun. He promoted the 25th year of his golf tournament.

"I just wanted to be a part of this big weekend in Memphis," Jones said. "It's such an exciting weekend, and I'm so blessed to be here year after year."

Not only does the Classic bring together alums and fans from all over the country, it also is a huge economic boost to the city of Memphis. According to SHC organizer Fred Jones, last year's classic brought about $20 million to the city.

Tailgating at the SHC is a family affair.

"It's a family thing that we do every year," Patricia Macklin said. "We got fish and we got ribs."

"We know people from both ends, Jackson and TSU," Benjamin West said.

The weekend is filled with fun for everyone.

"We come out and stay the whole weekend and just enjoy it," Tommy Wallace said.

Tailgating also brings out people from all over to enjoy the activities, the atmosphere, and of course...the food.

"This is where it's going down. We are going hard," Lela Richardson, tailgater, said. "Everybody is setting up. Getting our little drink on. It's marvelous."

"We got a whole hog that's going to go on the grill," Benjamin West said.

Tom Joyner Morning Show's Live Broadcast

Tom Joyner and V101 came out to join the party at Tiger Lane Friday morning, playing music and talking to fans on his nationally syndicated broadcast. The morning show kicked-off the Southern Heritage Classic celebration Friday with a live broadcast on Tiger Lane.

"This is the 27th year and I think we have done it at least 22," Joyner said. "I can't remember a time when we haven't done this. It means a good time. A real good time."

That real good time included dancing and music.

"You want to make sure your coals are white and if you're using wood chips you want to soak them in water for at least thirty minutes," former Grizzlies Head Chef Chris Beavers.

There is always much to enjoy. Fans look forward to the Classic College Fair, Nike Coaches Luncheon, music fests, Orange Mound parade, and the Ed "Too Tall" Jones Golf Classic.

"I started this two years after Fred Jones launched the Southern Heritage Classic and I just wanted to be apart of this big weekend in Memphis," Ed Jones said.

WMC Action News 5 asked classic founder and CEO Fred Jones which event is his favorite.

"The parade is my favorite because it takes me back to my childhood when I was marching down Beale Street with the Cotton Maker Jubilee with Booker T. Washington High School," Fred Jones said.

Of course there is the classic game, Jackson State versus Tennessee State, and crowd favorite: the battle of the bands.

"You have so many people that come here, although they watch the game, the band is the major recipe for this entire event," Jackson State fan Lea Esther Redmond-Terrell said.

SHC College and Career Fair

Among all the fun surrounding the Southern Heritage Classic was a career fair. It was held on Friday at the Pipkin building from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. 7,000-8,000 students from across Shelby County came by the bus load. They were looking for the next step in their careers.

One of the thousands was Manassas High School senior Mikala Turnage. She came to the career fair looking for the right school.

"I'm looking for a good biochemistry program," Turnage said.

She had a lot to choose from. Eighty-five to ninety schools participated. They ranged from four year institutions to vocational schools.

"I think it's a good opportunity for a lot of youth to come and get this experience," Turnage said.

There weren't only schools at the career fair. Businesses also participated. Victor Charles represented ServiceMaster.

"For us, it's a great opportunity to think about the future," Charles said. "And people that would come to work for us in the future."

Mikala Turnage could eventually be one of those employees. Right now though she's focused on her education.

Beale Bucks

For those planning on enjoying the classic events this weekend, you'll see a lot of police. Sky cameras and tons of police are stationed all throughout Tiger Lane and extra officers will be on Beale Street Saturday night.

"Yes, that's a good thing. Keep us all protected and safe at all times," tailgater Jakiera Mallory said.

Also, if you are going to the Jackson State vs. Tennessee State game Saturday, you can use your game ticket to get onto Beale Street for FREE Saturday night. 

Voter Registration Booths

If you haven't registered to vote, now is your opportunity. Shelby County election officials will be out in full force with voter registration booths setup throughout the Classic on Saturday.

Festivities for the Southern Heritage Classic are happening all weekend long. The game itself kicks off Saturday at 6 p.m.

For a full schedule and ticket information, click here.

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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