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Marching Bands Steal The Show At The Cotton Bowl
by Hady Mawajdeh 30 Sep 2016

The Texas State Fair kicks off today and over the next few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people will flock to Dallas. Some will come for the deep fried Jello-O or Chicken Pot Pie. Others will pose for selfies in front of Big Tex. But as Art&Seek’s Hady Mawajdeh reports, this weekend, the main attraction is a showdown at the Cotton Bowl.


Photo: Southwest Airlines

On Saturday afternoon, the Grambling State Tigers face off against Prairie View A&M Panthers in the 91st Annual State Fair Classic Football Game. The matchup will be the 30th time in the Classic’s history that these two teams meet.

Professor Kenyatta Cavil of Texas Southern University says this game isn’t much like that other game people associate with the Cotton Bowl.

“Unlike the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas’ Red River Shootout, where it can get quite mean spirited at times, I would say that this is more of a friendly rivalry,” says Cavil.

Cavil’s TSU is the only school in the nation that teaches a course on the history of sport at Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU). Cavil understsands that history – he’s an alum of Prairie View A&M and he also writes for a sports blog that covers HBCUs. And just because the competition’s friendly doesn’t mean the games aren’t important.

“I think these rivalry games mean everything. I mean you’re talking about schools that started as the only place that African Americans in this country could get a higher education,” says Cavil.

Both schools are more than century old and they have lots of traditions. And the one that will be the most celebrated this Saturday has nothing to do with a pig skin.


“One of the unique components of HBCU sports is the battle in the stands which goes on in halftime until the fifth quarter after the game,” says Cavil.

This is a battle of the bands from the two schools. Each band performs songs to energize the crown and sort of show up the opposition.

“We entertain from top to bottom of the show,” says Tim Zachary, director of bands at Prairie View A&M. “We’re there to make sure you don’t get a hot dog at halftime.”

Zachary’s directed bands in the HBCU system for more than a decade. He’s also directed bands in Division I programs. He says the two experiences are pretty different.

“I guess it’s like watching a jazz band versus watching a symphony,” says Zachary.

Zachary says the music from D-1 school is the band-equivalent of classical. But there’s nothing like seeing the World Famous Grambling State Band compete against the Prairie View Marching Storm.

“We’re more along the juke box side and with that being said, we’ve got some phenomenal musicians in all of our programs as well.”

If you don’t believe him, go to YouTube. On the site you can find dozens of videos with thousands of views of HBCU bands performing songs by Janet Jackson, Kanye West, Young Thug and Earth Wind and Fire.

And you’re sure to expect more of the same this weekend. Again, Zachary

“Win, lose or draw with the football team – and we love them to death – the bands are gonna go at it no matter what. If your record was 0 and 1 or 10 and 1, it’s the same fight for us. It’s all about the bragging rights,” says Zachary

And we’ll see how things play out.