Fort Valley State and Albany State fans filled the Columbus Civic Center parking lot with music, food and fanfare Saturday morning in anticipation of the 25th annual Fountain City Classic game.
Hundreds of friends, family and alumni set up stereos, tents and TVs in preparation for the 2 p.m. game at the A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium. The Albany State-Fort Valley State match-up, which was moved to Columbus in 1990, provides an opportunity for attendees to catch up with acquaintances and continue traditions.
Though Albany State holds an 18-6 advantage in the series, Fort Valley still leads overall 33-30-3.
"It's a great opportunity for people in the Columbus and Phenix City, many of whom are alumni, to catch up with each other," Fountain City Committee member Antonio Owens said. "It gives people a chance to rekindle some old friendships and see what everyone has been doing."
Owens, who has worked on the committee for 12 years, said he has been attending the Fountain City Classic since it began in 1989.
"I was a sophomore at Fort Valley State when they first started this," Owens said. "I've been able to see it grow. It's a great feeling, seeing all the people come together for this game."
In addition to preparing barbecue, cocktails and other tailgate fare, fans perused dozens of vendors selling wares such as sweatshirts sporting team mascots, incense, candles, purses and jewelry. Food trucks selling Caribbean jerk, ribs and other carnival-type food were also available.
Some fans have made attending the game a tradition for almost a decade. Albany State fan and Columbus Park and Recreation Receptionist Krystle Hunter said she first tailgated at the event around 2006.
"We just come out and tailgate and have a good time with family and friends," Hunter said. "It's a good chance to see everybody."
In addition to alumni, several local clubs make the event a chance for members to gather together, enjoy food and watch an historic match-up. Laquanta Hamilton, who acts as secretary for the Street Legendz Motorcycle Club's Lady Legendz division, said her group first decided to come to the Fountain City Classic this year as a way for members to build camaraderie.
"It's our first time here, but so far it looks like a good group of mature people," Hamilton said. "We'll probably make a tradition of it."