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Classic gets better

The Florida Classic Association promises an improved schedule of events to enhance the annual Tampa Stadium clash between teams from Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman College.

FAMU and B-CC will play football Nov. 26 at 5 p.m., but at a Tuesday news conference, the association announced several first-time events added to the Thanksgiving weekend event:

A battle between the schools' bands the day before the game at Tampa Stadium.

A tailgate picnic featuring games, competitions and a sports medicine clinic at Tampa Stadium.

A step show _ a competition of choreographed routines performed by black fraternities and sororities _ after the game at Tampa Convention Center.

Along with the new events will be two traditional gatherings: the Nov. 23 Presidents' Corporate Luncheon and the Nov. 25 Jazz Nightcap featuring recording artists Art Porter, Alex Bugnon and Lalah Hathaway.

Busch Gardens will discount admission for the weekend. Coca-Cola, Kash n' Karry and Sports Authority are having special ticket promotions and giveaways.

Generally considered the largest annual gathering of blacks in the state, the Florida Classic has an estimated economic impact of $9-million in Tampa.

"Not only is it important from an economic standpoint," Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman said at the news conference, "but more importantly it demonstrates that the community can support an event that's for all of the community but supports two predominantly black universities."

Government and business leaders displayed their commitment by paying the salary of Hiram Green, appointed the classic's first full-time executive director in August 1993.

Green came on board too late to have an impact on the 1993 game but has had a year to prepare for the 1994 clash. The results of his work are evident in the new events and sponsors.

During the news conference at the African American Museum of Art, Ferman Motor Car Co. president Jim Ferman announced his company's sponsorship of the Battle of the Bands and presented Green with keys to a courtesy car.

Green also announced the involvement of Glory Foods Inc., an African-American owned company based in Ohio. Glory will sponsor the tailgate party, and Green hopes Glory's involvement will attract more black-owned businesses.

Other cities, including Orlando and Jacksonville, are reportedly interested in luring the Florida Classic from Tampa, but Green hopes the events and sponsors will keep the game here. As many as 30 classic weekends involving historically black college football games are staged by major cities throughout the season because of the economic and community benefits.

FLORIDA CLASSIC WEEKEND

(Major events)

Wednesday, Nov. 23

Presidents' Corporate Luncheon, Tampa Convention Center, noon

Friday, Nov. 25

Busch Gardens Classic Family Reunion, (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

Battle of the Bands, Tampa Stadium, 4:30 p.m.

Jazz Nightcap, Tampa Convention Center, 10 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 26

Tailgate Party, Tampa Stadium, 2 p.m.

FAMU vs. B-CC, Tampa Stadium, 5 p.m.

Classic Step show, Tampa Convention Center, 9 p.m.

The Florida Classic is generally considered the largest annual gathering of African-Americans in the state with an estimated economic impact of $9-million in Tampa. While the football game is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving Day weekend, perhaps the main attraction is the marching bands, especially FAMU's Marching 100, which has 300 members and was proclaimed the nation's best by Sports Illustrated last year.

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