‘This is Black college on steroids:’ Florida Classic means excitement for alumni, boon for business

Annual rivalry game takes place Saturday

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats and the Florida A&M Rattlers are set to go head to head over the weekend during the annual Florida Classic, but as events are going on small businesses say this is their time to shine.

“This is Black college on steroids, one of the biggest Black college classics in the nation,” said Anthony Jones, who is the vice president of enrollment management and student experience for Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.

With a crowd of more than 1,000 attendees at a luncheon Friday, Jones says everything that someone will see this weekend for the Florida Classic has been months in the making.

“Now one thing you can never call is weather, but hey we are Floridians, so we understand the weather,” Jones said.

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For Rattlers like Dior George, she says she is honored to be a part of the Classic by giving back through opportunities with Wells Fargo.

The bank is offering more than $300,000 in scholarships to competing schools.

“It’s really about providing resources to not only students and alumni but to just across the entire HBCU community,” George said.

While many HBCU alumni, city and county leaders, and even organizations start their celebrations for the Classic at the luncheon; if you go downtown, you can see local vendors looking to cash in on all the extra people visiting Orlando.

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One of those vendors is Keshia’s Kitchen.

“Prices went up, we did have to increase prices so some of the food prices, some of the menu items did go up,” said Laketra Lofton. “We added some menu items, but actually, it didn’t affect us.”

Lofton says despite the pandemic and even recent inflation, her business is thriving.

This is Lofton’s second year at the Florida Classic and says being here is a boon for their bottom dollar. The Tallahassee-based kitchen says they’re prepared for the crowds.

“We have what our customer base wants, so we are out here, we’re ready to go, we’re just making sure we have everything we need,” said Lofton.

Back at the luncheon, Jones says whether boosting enrollment, creating jobs, or financial opportunities, he says this Classic weekend shows the best both schools have to offer.

“Our institutions play a vital role in the history of the United States of America, the world, and the economic impact that we have as people of color,” Jones said.

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About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.