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By Lexi Hotchkiss and John Luteran
(Click here for a complete schedule of Enshrinement Festival events and activities)
We know your type. You’re the person grilling up brats and burgers in a stadium parking lot at 6 a.m. on gameday. Your fantasy football team gets more love and attention than your overgrown lawn. You may or may not have painted your face in your team’s colors more than once in your life.
We are your people, football fan. You are home. Now it’s time to make your pilgrimage to the place where it all began.
Every summer, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival takes over the city of Canton, located about an hour south of Cleveland (just follow I-77 South and you’re there). Not only is Canton the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s also where the American Professional Football Association, later renamed the National Football League, was founded in 1920.
From July 21–Aug. 5, more than 700,000 people will converge onto the city — including gold-jacketed Hall of Famers, NFL superstars, celebrities, and throngs of red-blooded American football fans — to celebrate the induction of the Class of 2019: Champ Bailey, Pat Bowlen, Gil Brandt, Tony Gonzalez, Ty Law, Kevin Mawae, Johnny Robinson and Ed Reed.
Listen, we know this is a lot to take in and your football senses are tingling with dangerous levels of excitement, but we’re here to help you make the most of your trip to this most hallowed pigskin paradise, where there’s literally something for everyone.
The festival kicks off with the 2019 Community Parade Sunday, July 21. The city of Canton welcomes the world with this downtown celebration filled with youth groups, marching bands, antique cars and more.
That’s just the warmup for the Canton Repository Grand parade on Saturday, Aug. 3, where over 200,000 spectators welcome the Hall of Fame Class of 2019. The massive 2.2-mile parade features giant helium balloons (think Macy’s Thanksgiving Day-sized), professionally designed floats, hundreds of marching band members, returning Hall of Famers and more.
You don’t need to be some sort of physics nerd to appreciate hot air balloons. They’re big and they’re pretty and they float in the sky. That’s enough for us.
The Balloon Classic, July 26–28, has become one of the most popular events on the festival calendar. Over 130,000 spectators come to bask in Friday’s Night Glow, five flights of hot air balloons of all colors and shapes, live music and great food capped off by a thrilling fireworks display. Lace up for the Up, Up & Away 5K, July 27 and run or walk the beautiful Kent State University Stark Campus as the balloons launch and fly overhead.
You’ve been waiting for it since the last piece of confetti fell after the Super Bowl, and after the combine, the draft and the schedule release, it’s finally here.
The NFL Preseason kicks off Thursday, Aug. 1 as Von Miller’s Denver Broncos take on Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons in the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Sure, the starters probably won’t play much (if at all), but man it just feels good to watch football again.
Just in case you didn’t believe us when we said there was something for everyone at the Enshrinement Festival, we present to you the Fashion Show Luncheon, Friday, Aug. 2.
For 56 years, the Luncheon has showcased men’s, women’s and children’s fashion from local boutiques and national brands in front of 3,000 spectators. Grab a glass of wine and enjoy designer frills and live entertainment thrills.
And you doubted us…
The three physical icons that represent an individual’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame include the bust, the ring and the gold jacket.
Join the Class of 2019 Friday, Aug. 2 for the Enshrinees’ Gold Jacket Dinner at Memorial Civic Center and Cultural Center where you can witness the crew get their jackets while being honored by several returning Hall of Famers, NFL team owners and a myriad of sports celebs. You can drink and dine with football’s finest, but you’ll need to buy your ticket first.
Throughout the Enshrinement Festival, you’re going to have plenty of opportunities to snap a selfie with Hall of Famers or get their John Hancock on as much memorabilia as you can carry:
If you’re looking for that once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, the Enshrinement Ceremony at Fawcett Stadium, Saturday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m., is the emotional centerpiece to the multi-day festival. Fans will never see so many of football’s best from past and present in one place at the same time, nor will they see so many large men cry tears of joy.
Easy, tough guy. When it’s your favorite player up there giving a heartfelt speech — who you’ve lived and died with every Sunday and bought their jerseys for your kids (and maybe your dog) — you try not to “get a little dust” in your eyes!
Did you think you’d be this close to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and not rock out? Please.
The Concert for Legends wraps up the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Sunday, Aug. 4 with a concert from multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning rock band Imagine Dragons at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Tickets always go fast for this one, and with a headliner like that you better get yours early.
Arrange transportation, book accommodations, purchase special event tickets and get your face paint ready NOW. To get the complete 411 on the festival, visit www.profootballhoffestival.com. Dates and times subject to change, please check the website when finalizing your plans.
We encourage you to consult businesses' websites and social handles for information on current hours.
Pro Football Hall of Fame | 2121 George Halas Drive, N.W. Canton, OH, 44708