Southern Heritage Classic weekend arrives with no rivalry, family events due to COVID-19

Southern Heritage Classic weekend arrives with no rivalry, family events due to COVID-19

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Typically, during a weekend in Mid-September, Tiger Lane would be filled with thousands of people tailgating for the Southern Heritage Classic. But not this year. The 31st annual Southern Heritage Classic has been scrapped due to the pandemic.

Tailgating, the Orange Mound Parade and the heated rivalry between Tennessee State University and Jackson State University playing out on the field are all staples of the Southern Heritage Classic, which brings 75,000 people to Memphis every year.

With this year’s pandemic restrictions, founder Fred Jones says safely hosting the event was simply not possible.

“We couldn’t have the event that we have all grown up and been accustomed to,” said Jones.

Jones stated that people will be missing out more than just food and football. The event is also about community spirit and making family memories.

“I’ve had stories where families would take their kids off to college only to bring them home two weeks later for the Southern Heritage Classic Weekend,” Jones said.

With the lights out on the classic this year, vendors will lose out on potential business.

“Caterers and tent companies - there’s all kinds of small businesses that build their year around the Southern Heritage Classic, and that has gone away,” he said.

Last year the event brought in $21 million. Memphis Tourism President Kevin Kane previously told WMC that with new improvements coming to the city, there is hope tourism will be making a comeback.

“Here around the fairgrounds and the beautiful Liberty Bowl Stadium, and other venues with the convention center, Renasant Convention Center, which should be finished in a few months, improvements to the airport, new hotel. Memphis is going to be ready,” said Kane.

Jones said plans for next year are in the works, but everything depends on how the pandemic plays out.

“We don’t know what we’re going to be able to do individually until they have a cure and a vaccine,” Jones stated.

On Saturday, September 12, fans will be able to stream a rewind of the 2017 Southern Heritage Classic game between Tennessee State University and Jackson State University at 7 p.m.

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