It’s count down to the Southern Heritage Classic, and Fred warned me that this week was going to be crazy!
Yesterday and today Fred and I handled media appearances. These are necessary to let people know what is going on with the Classic. It also allows Fred to be visible, express his gratitude to supporters and invite the public to be a part of this three-day cultural event. Sunday, we did the 8 a.m. newscast at WMC-TV Action News 5 with Ben Watson. Today, which is Labor Day, was a holiday for some but not us. We started out the morning at Local 24 with an interview with Local Memphis Live host Yvette Whiteside and then headed over to AM 1070 WDIA for an interview on the Bev Johnson Show.That particular interview lasted two hours! It got very interesting when one caller asked Fred what was the Classic doing for Memphis, especially black people. He told Fred, “They say that you running with the money” and asked him “What are you doing with the money?” What he meant to be an insult provided Fred with the perfect opportunity to tell people why they should support the Classic. Fred politely informed him that the Classic not only provides wholesome family-friendly entertainment but also pumps money into the local economy…..about $21 million dollars each year to be exact. He even used me as an example and explained that by hiring me to do his PR, he is helping to support a small, locally-owned black business. Amen! He talked about how his company donated $200,000 to LeMoyne Owen College when they were having financial difficulty as well as how the money that TSU and JSU earn playing in the game is used to give scholarships to promising young people who otherwise would not be able to attend college. Several of the listeners did not like nor appreciate that caller’s line of questioning and the phone lines lit up with people who weren’t as polite. Some of the livelier responses were:
“None of your damn business!”
“Fred is in business. You don’t ask Dollar General what they doing with the money. So, why are you asking him?” (I’m paraphrasing here.)
“You owe Fred an apology!”
Others called to give their personal testimonies of how Fred Jones and the Classic have sown seeds into their lives. One particular touching caller shared how her grown grandsons still talk about how much fun they had as children attending the Classic with her (their grandmother) and this year she is going to share that experience with her great grandson. When you’ve been doing something 25 years there are bound to be some wonderful stories to tell. I enjoyed hearing them.
When we returned to the office things were in full swing. The office was packed with people finalizing details. Fred had a couple of meetings to discuss accommodations for the concerts and the game. One meeting was with Bear’s Catering. They handle the food for the VIP Party, the Classic Concert, Classic Music Festival and the Liberty Bowl stadium suites on Game Day. A lot of the conversation is about the budget. Fred believes in staying within budget!
In the entertainment industry you do a lot of catering to other people. Every major player in your production has a way they want things done and they expect the promoter to honor their requests. These requests can range from sound and lighting requirements for the artists to transportation requirements and beverages for the teams. These major players include the concert artists, the athletic teams and the sponsors who help pay for these events. Their participation and support is what helps to make the Classic a highly-anticipated event each year and they deserve to be treated well. Fred tries to make sure that happens but in a cost-effective manner.
I may have alluded to this in previous blogs but Fred is VERY good at delegating responsibilities. Once he finds people he knows are knowledgeable, dependable and trustworthy he keeps them around for as long as he can. Several of these “delegates” I haven’t met and may possibly never see but you know they are there because you see the results of their hard work. He has a small core staff (about six people) but then leaves things like the crew members and volunteers (about 200), vendors (30) and tailgaters (10,000 +!!), concert production, etc. to others who work remotely. He is in regular contact with them to tell them how things need to be executed but he leaves it up to them to get the job done. With an event of this magnitude one person can’t do it all and the competence of your team can make your event a success or failure.
Maxine Maclin is in the office today. According to Fred, on Classic Saturday we all work for her. She handles all Game Day operations and makes sure everything is executed properly or at least as smoothly as it can be. Ms. Maxine is truly a pro when it comes to producing large events.
Fred Jones Quote for Today
We (the Classic) have put the “T” in tailgating.
About the Blogger: Jae Henderson is a native Memphian. She works as a freelance marketing and PR professional, journalist, blogger, book author and just became the newest addition to the Southern Heritage Classic team. She’ll be giving the inside scoop and sharing all Fred’s business until the big game. Go Tigers!