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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

How the Circle City Classic supercharges the Black dollar

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The Circle City Classic is back and bigger than ever this year. This year’s weekend festivities include a parade, pageant coronation, prayer and praise worship service, battle of the bands, football game and much more.

Rev. Charles Williams, former president of the Indiana Black Expo, founded the annual college football event in 1984 with a $150,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment. Williams wanted to bring a taste of HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) life to Indianapolis and encourage youth to attend college.

The Classic has grown exponentially, and now Hoosiers from across the state and visitors from around the country come for the marching bands, HBCU football game and networking opportunities. It also provides an outlet to celebrate the booming Black entrepreneur landscape and aid core companies located in Indiana by engaging Black students and professionals. Local organizations use the event as a vehicle to showcase what Indiana has to offer.

“This year marks the 39th Circle City Classic, and it’s much more than a football game,” said Edward Rogers, director of event management at Indiana Black Expo. “It is a festival that promotes higher education and provides opportunities for youth to explore college options at an HBCU. During the weekend, Indianapolis gets a taste of what it feels like to have an HBCU in our city.”

Profits from the event help fund scholarships, granting approximately $5 million in scholarships to deserving youth attending colleges and universities across the country.

This year, the Classic returns with a handful of economically empowering events, such as the Circle City Classic Talent Day Career Fair, Sept. 22 from 1-5 p.m., and Circle City Classic Business and Entrepreneur Day, Sept. 23 from 12:30-5 p.m. Both events are free and are held at the Lucas Oil Stadium.

A variety of employers will attend the career fair, including Eli Lilly, Anthem and Salesforce, and job seekers will have the opportunity to meet with employers, learn about open positions and apply for jobs.

The Business and Entrepreneur event will host Black businesses and entrepreneurs in the city and provide a variety of workshops, speakers and networking opportunities. The goal of the event is to connect businesses and entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed.

Rogers spoke about the economic impact that the Classic has on Indianapolis.

“The Circle City Classic attracts thousands of visitors to the city, boosting the local economy,” Rogers said. “Circle City Classic is a major economic driver for Downtown hotels and restaurants.”

The event attracts an average of 175,000 people and has given Indianapolis an economic boost of more than $8 million annually, according to the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.

Clayton Jones, longtime resident of Indianapolis, is one of many locals who remember the fun and pride that Classic Weekend brought to Indianapolis.

“I remember visiting the RCA Dome with my friends to watch the football game and the battle of the bands in the mid-2000s,” Jones said. “The energy was high; Downtown was full of life. It was always a good time.”

Rogers reiterated that the Classic is a celebration of African American culture that has become a tradition for many families and individuals and is a source of pride for the black community in Indianapolis.

“Overall, Circle City Classic is a celebration of diversity and inclusion that brings people together and families, friends and fans to come together for one big weekend to honor the historically African American traditions of showcasing HBCU cultures while advancing opportunities for African Americans in education and economic growth,” Rogers said.

For further information on Circle City Classic events, click here.

Contact multi-media staff writer Noral Parham III at 317-762-7846 or via email at noralp@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @NoralParham. For more stories by Noral, click here.

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