Sunday, September 10, 2000

Crowds soak up fun at Jamboree

Football just one of many attractions

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        College football — pretty exciting college football, as it turned out — was only part of the show Saturday at the River Front Classic and Jamboree.

[photo] Jeremy Merriweather plays with a discarded pompom at the River Front Classic and Jamboree on Saturday.
(Mike Simons photo)
| ZOOM |
        Football, and his beloved Tennessee State University Tigers taking on the Black National Champion Aggies from North Carolina A&T, was what brought Roderick Lyons and his wife, Denise, 300 miles from Nashville to Cincinnati on Saturday.

        But, a few minutes before the 1 p.m. kickoff, the Lyonses weren't in their Cinergy Field seats. They were still out on the plaza, enjoying the music and food, and spending money with the vendors at the Jamboree.

        “This is very cool,” Mr. Lyons said. “We'll get in there: I don't want to miss the game. But we want to get the whole Jamboree experience.”

        Only a few thousand ticket-holders were in their seats when Tennessee State kicked off to the Aggies. Most of the tens of thousands were still outside, where vendors were selling a wide range of products — African clothing, music CDs, hairstyling products, T-shirts and even “official” Jamboree photographs.

        Eventually, though, more than 30,000 made their way into the stadium to watch the Aggies eke out a 16-14 win over the Tigers.

        But the River Front Classic and Jamboree was much more than football.

        It kicked off Thursday and Friday with an education summit, with workshops on education for students and parents sponsored by the Urban League and the River Front Classic's End Zone Club, a year-round college prep program for students in grades seven through 12.

        The End Zone Club was founded by John Pace Jr., the president and founder of the River Front Classic, which has become a major event in the black college football season.

        Saturday night, fraternities and sororities from predominantly black colleges all over the country held a “step show” dance competition at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.

        Organizers said more than 40,000 people were expected to attend the football game and other events, including a worship service and college fair today.

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