There's nothing quite like a football Classic -- note the capital "C." Except perhaps the next one.
There's one in Dallas that some people anticipate far more than any other football game: the State Fair Classic, also known as Grambling State University vs. Prairie View A&M University, also known as the Tiger Band vs. the Marching Storm.
More than 50,000 people attended last year's game; add about 20,000 for the number of people at the events surrounding it.
The tradition of Classics, which dates back to 1924 and is almost exclusively a province of historically black colleges and universities, offers more than football for those paying attention. It's a celebration of higher education, designed to delight and entice, and spur hopes and dreams.
And, while it helps to be alumni, it's hardly a requirement. The sense of community is palpable, with attendance from the surrounding community, alumni, fans and other HBCU alumni. It's a social gathering. Respect.
The games can be found all over because graduates of these schools are flung far and wide; for some, a Classic near them is the closest taste of their college life. The Chicago Classic featured opponents nowhere near home: Clark-Atlanta University (Georgia) vs. Central State University (Ohio). There are websites devoted to the subject. The grandmother of them all, the Turkey Day Classic, will pit two old-school universities against each other: Alabama State University vs. Cheyney University, the oldest HBCU, at 2 p.m. at ASU Stadium in Montgomery, Ala.
This is a big deal.
Here are some fast facts:
When and where
A grand game deserves a storied venue. The State Fair Classic is Oct. 7 at 4 p.m. at the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park, 3750 Cotton Bowl Circle, Dallas. Game tickets include entrance to the State Fair and the pre-game concert. Tickets cost $28 in advance and $34 on the day of the game. Tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster or locations as diverse as Williams Chicken locations and Friendship West Baptist Church.
What's in a game?
More than you expect. This schedule is packed.
Oct. 6: The Radio One Celebrity Golf Classic at 7:45 a.m. at Cedar Crest Country Club, 1800 Southerland Ave., Dallas. Later, the Prairie View A&M Dallas alumni chapter will host its Athletics Scholarship and Stadium Gala at 6:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Dallas.
Oct. 7: The Grambling State alumni chapter will hold the Battle of the Bands and Cheerleader Showcase at Beverly D. Humphrey "Tiger" Stadium at Lancaster High School on game day at 8 a.m. There is a second, non-competing showcase at Sprague Stadium at the same time. And the pre-game concert featuring Ro James will start on the Chevy Main Stage inside the fair grounds at 2 p.m.
The bands will battle
HBCU bands are know for high-stepping, pageantry and turning the stands into a dance party. There's a lot of history here: This is an a longtime interstate rivalry, in a game that Prairie View has been in since the beginning almost 90 years ago.
The Grambling Tiger Band has been featured in movies and commercials, including a famous one for Coke and a kinda, almost funny one for Tampax.
And the Marching Storm of Prairie View A&M lives up to its name, consistently in the Final 8 for the Honda Battle of the Bands, held in Atlanta every year. Get to the State Fair Classic early to see the winners of the Battle of the Bands perform and be prepared to stay late for the famous "5th Quarter."
A star (or two) will appear
This year's special guests include Grambling grad and new Dallas Police Department Chief U. Renee Hall and gospel singer Darian Yancey. Lil Jon performed during halftime of the 2010 State Fair Classic. There is also that official Celebrity Golf Tournament and Ro James, an R&B lover man with a sound reminiscent of Prince and D'Angelo, is the pre-game concert. There's no telling who will show up at any one of the after-parties, but an "official" after-party at the Intercontinental Dallas has Houston's Paul Wall and Webbie, a native of Louisiana.
You will want to go back
The "5th Quarter," in which bands play at each other, is one reason. The good vibrations are another. The pageantry and the artistry on display are another. And if you're looking for high-flying football -- there were more than 100 points scored in 2015 and 52 last year -- you got it.
Who won? For the record, Grambling (both times). For the event? Everyone.