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State Fair Classic's Return Celebrates Football, Fanfare And Black College Culture

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Keren Carrion
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Meredith Michelle, 42, an alumna of Prairie View A&M, waves her hands along with her sons Canon and Chance, in hopes of getting free t-shirts during the second half of the game on Saturday.

Established in 1925, the State Fair Classic between Prairie View A&M and Grambling State University is more than just a football game. It’s a space for the Black community to connect and support historically Black colleges and universities.

The annual Texas State Fair Classic football game returned to the Cotton Bowl Stadium at Fair Park this Saturday. Families and people of all ages were excited to be back at the event after over a year away due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prairie View alumna Meredith Michele said it brought her joy to be able to bring her kids to the event and show support for her alma mater and community.

“I come every year because it’s a tradition for me since 1993,” Michele, who’s also a host for Prairie View’s radio station, said. “It’s like family and homecoming every time.”

The Prairie View Panthers, defending the title, took the lead in the first half and did not look back. The team defeated the Grambling Tigers 24-10. But the real excitement started at halftime when both universities’ marching bands took to the turf for one of the most celebrated parts of the event: the battle of the bands.

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Keren Carrion
The Prairie View A&M football team huddles before a play at the State Fair Classic.

Prairie View alumna and announcer, TT On The Mic, said traditions like the Classic are so important because they are often people’s first introduction to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“This is how we represent,” she said. “So many individuals, like I was at 15 years old, get inspired and get exposed to what [an] HBCU looks like from us. Sometimes we are their first look.”

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Keren Carrion
Members of the Prairie View A&M trumpet section stare straight ahead before their half-time performance on the field, at this year’s State Fair Classic.

Adina Durden, 18, came to the event with her mom.

“I love coming down here, seeing my culture, being able to bond and not like, code switch all the time,” Durden said. “I really love it.”

The event included a pre-game concert featuring r&b group Dru Hill. After the game, Austin-based soul band Black Pumas performed on the state fair’s main stage.

The State Fair Classic is over — until next year. But, the State Fair of Texas is open through Oct. 17.

Got a tip? Email Solomon Wilson at swilson@kera.org. You can follow Solomon on Twitter @SolomonSeesIt.

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