Bayou Classic

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Bayou Classic

Type of Holiday: Sporting
Date of Observation: November; weekend after Thanksgiving
Where Celebrated: New Orleans, Louisiana
Symbols and Customs: Battle of the Bands, College Fair, Football Game, Greek Step Show, Job Fair


Football Classics are a longstanding tradition among African-American collegiate teams. Although it is unclear when the first Football Classic game was played, Classics were being played as early as 1924. Since then, numerous Classics have been created and many traditions have formed around these events. Far more than just another college football game, the Classics give participating schools a chance to showcase the African-American college experience.

The Bayou Classic, officially known as the State Farm Bayou Classic, is one such Football Classic. This annual grudge match was first played in 1974 and grew out of the traditional football rivalry between Grambling State University and Southern University, both in Louisiana. The FOOTBALL GAME is the focal point of a weekend full of social, cultural, and educational activities. The popular B ATTLE OF THE B ANDS pits the rival schools' marching bands against each other in competition, while a G REEK S TEP S HOW spotlights the talents of student fraternities and sororities. A JOB FAIR helps new graduates find employment, while a COLLEGE FAIR offers information to prospective students. Special luncheons and dinners are held throughout the weekend, along with pre-game tailgate parties and pep rallies. A gospel brunch closes the weekend's official festivities on Sunday.


Battle of the Bands

Just as the football teams vie for a victory on game day, the marching bands of both schools participate in a series of competitions to determine which has the best showmanship and performance ability. Dynamic, complicated performance routines are executed by the bands as a whole, as well as by specific sections of the bands such as drum lines, horn lines, and flag corps. The winning band typically receives a grant to fund its continuing operation.

College Fair

The Bayou Classic College Fair allows interested high school students to collect information about historically black colleges and universities throughout the country.

Football Game

More than 70,000 fans attend the Bayou Classic football game each year, with an estimated total of 200,000 people traveling to New Orleans to take part in the weekend. The yearly competition on the field remains intense as each team vies for the win and the all-important bragging rights. Although Grambling State defeated Southern at the first Bayou Classic, Southern holds the record for the longest winning streak. The two teams are almost evenly matched, with the number of victories by each team closely divided in the series overall.

Greek Step Show

African-American fraternities and sororities typically create elaborate stepping routines, many of which are rooted in African and African-American dance traditions. Stepping involves intricate synchronized movements such as high steps, hand clapping, arm crossing, and shoulder tapping. Sometimes singing or chanting accompanies the routine. Step shows and competitions have become a popular part of many African-American festivals and celebrations in the U.S. and around the world.

Job Fair

The Bayou Classic Super Job Fair provides university graduates with opportunities to meet and network with prospective employers. More than 20,000 students and some 1,000 employers have participated in this job fair since 1989.


Gay, Kathlyn. African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2007. Salzman, Jack, ed. The African-American Experience: Selections from the Five-Volume Macmillan Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. New York: Macmillan, 1998.


State Farm Bayou Classic
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009

Bayou Classic

Thanksgiving weekend
The State Farm Bayou Classic is a sporting event held annually in New Orleans, La., that combines the intensity of a great college football rivalry with the pageantry and celebratory atmosphere of a cultural festival. The Bayou Classic centers on the annual football game between two historically black universities: Grambling State University of Grambling, Louisiana, and Southern University of Baton Rouge. Held each year since 1974, the Classic attracts more than 70,000 football fans to the Louisiana Superdome on Thanksgiving weekend to see the nationally televised game between the Grambling Tigers and the Southern Jaguars.
In addition to such football traditions as tailgate parties and a coaches' luncheon, the Bayou Classic includes numerous fraternity and sorority parties, a battle of the marching bands, a Greek step show, a quiz bowl competition, a gospel music brunch, an employment fair, college fair, fan festival, golf tournament, and community service activity, including building a children's playground in New Orleans one recent year. Altogether more than 200,000 people participate in the Bayou Classic football game and related educational and social events.
State Farm Bayou Classic
Grambling State University
403 Main St.
Grambling, LA 71245
800-569-4714 or 318-247-3811
AAH-2007, p. 159
HolSymbols-2009, p. 77
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
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In addition, the historic Bayou Classic matching Southern University against Grambling State University will be played on November 25.
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