ORLANDO – Even as early at 10:30 in the morning, it felt like the calm before the storm – literally, in a sense, since meteorologists had predicted rains for Saturday, and grey clouds hovered steadily and ominously above the Citrus Bowl most of the day.
As it turns out, it never did rain on the Citrus Bowl, happy news for the game’s fans — and for those in the streets right around the Citrus Bowl, where vendors were busy setting up booths selling everything from home-made crafts and jewelry to food and President Obama pins and t-shirts, hours before the game even started.
The hours before the 2 p.m. kickoff to the Florida Classic pitting the Wildcats against the Rattlers inside the Citrus Bowl were the quietest. By noon, when the Citrus Bowl opened its gates to let in the crowd, and then well into the night, the celebrations, street parties and revelry continued – providing a strong economic boost to the city through this popular sports event.
A massive crowd flocked into the Citrus Bowl on Church Street in downtown Orlando, for the game that the guest team, the Wildcats, would eventually win by a score of 21 to 16. Throughout the day, food and merchandise vendors inside the Citrus Bowl Stadium — and lining many of the streets around it — were ready to take full advantage of the massive crowds that had arrived for the game.
That crowd, not surprisingly, included some of the city and region’s top political leaders. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, Orlando City Commissioner Samuel Ings and Orange County Commissioner Tiffany Moore were on hand for the 2012 Florida Blue Florida Classic Football Game, and so was Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, wearing his blue “Florida Classic” t-shirt.
Dyer was there for the ceremonial coin toss to kick-off the 33rd annual Florida Classic football game between the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Rattlers.
The crowd was there for the sports, and although the Rattlers started out with a 10-7 advantage early on, the game ended as Bethune-Cookman defeated the Florida A&M Football team, 21-16.
Even so, the competition rolls on. On Sunday it was announced that Bethune-Cookman would host Coastal Carolina in a first round matchup of the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, with the kickoff set for Saturday, Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets for the game go on sale today at 10 a.m., and prices are $10 for students and $25 for reserved seats. To order, call the B-CU Ticket Office at 386-481-2465, or log on to TicketMaster.com.
One of the sponsors of Saturday’s game was Tobacco Free Florida, which posted signs that read “Great Fans Need Great Lungs.” Another cosponsor was the insurance firm Florida Blue, or Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. The firm’s chief executive officer, Patrick Geraghty, noted at the end of the game, as the trophies were being handed out, that it had been a privilege to sponsor such a popular event.
“Florida Blue is honored to be a sponsor of the Florida Classic,” Geraghty said. “And we will be back again next year.”
Last May, Bethune-Cookman University President Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed and Florida A&M University President Dr. James H. Ammons announced that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, which is the Sunshine State’s largest health insurer, had signed on to become the title sponsor for the annual football game between the two schools. It was a three year agreement with the option to renew in years four and five.
It’s been estimated that the Florida Classic’s overall economic impact for Orlando and Central Florida is $30 million. Within the stadium itself, merchants were on hand to sell everything from corn dogs to Polish sausage and strawberry lemonade to the hungry crowd, to stadium horns. President Obama, who was just re-elected on Nov. 6 to a second term and who carried Orange County and Florida in the race, was also a popular figures, as buttons, t-shirts and illustrated history books about the president were readily available from the merchants.
Entertainment was also a key part of the event. During half-time, there was a live performance by Yo Gotti and Tom G. But there was also a more sobering moment, when an anti-bullying message was played on the stadium screen. It may have served as a sad reminder of the hazing death of Robert Champion at the November 2011 Classic.
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