Thousands filled the streets of downtown Phenix City and Columbus Saturday for the Fountain City Classic parade before Fort Valley State University battled Albany State University at the A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium.
“I just like the parade,” said James Smitherman, a Columbus resident and native of Selma, Ala. “For the last four or five years, I have been coming here.”
Smitherman was among the thousands of people standing on Broadway to greet the annual parade as it crossed 13th Street Bridge into Columbus. For many, the parade was a chance to support their alumni while others brought children to the event for the music, the marching bands and political candidates throwing candy to the crowd.
The parade put Pamela Moody of Columbus in the middle of both schools.
“I’ve got two nieces at Fort Valley and I was at Albany State for two years myself,” Moody said as former NBA coach and local prep basketball star Sam Mitchell cruised down Broadway. “I’m like in between. I try to come every year.”
The parade brought back basketball memories for Doug Mote of Columbus. He was at Abraham Baldwin College in Tifton playing a practice game with Albany State when he learned a lesson from future NBA star Caldwell Jones. “They made a pass off to me. I make a beautiful jump shot and Caldwell Jones slammed it all the way to the back of the gym,” Mote said.Holding one of his twin daughters as marching bands stepped by, Mote said that’s one of the reasons he supports Albany State. “I’ve gotta go with Albany State,” he said.
With only three days before the general election on Tuesday, the parade was a popular stop for District Attorney Julia Slater, Sheriff John Darr, Danny Arencibia of State House District 135, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop and challenger John House for the 2nd Congressional District. They were all seeking re-election or trying to unseat incumbents holding public office. There were also people wearing tee shirts for Obama-Biden in the race for president and vice president.
Festivities before the game continued with a huge tailgating party in the east parking lot at the Civic Center. Just about every hill, parking space or piece of asphalt was filled with tables, grills, tents and plenty of speakers blasting 70s and hip hop music.
John Flemming makes the trip every year for the classic. He was cooking up chicken, ribs, sausage, corn and red beans for family members and friends.