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The Suburbanite
  • Hall of Fame Memories: 2003: An altered state

  • The Hall of Fame Festival 10 years ago, on the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the football shrine, was one of change — so much so that The Repository published a collection in its annual festival tabloid edition entitled “40 things different about this year’s Hall of Fame Festival.”

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  • Stark County was waterlogged the summer of 2003 after four inches of rain caused a record July flood.
    But it was only soggy at the Stark County Fairgrounds.
    “Overall, it’s pretty dry out there,” said Jane Tortola of the Stark County Agricultural Society said on July 29, 2003, with her assessment taking on an air of importance despite the fair being a month away.
    Two days after Tortola spoke, the fairgrounds became the official home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival Ribs Burnoff.
    The Hall of Fame Festival 10 years ago, on the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the football shrine, was one of change — so much so that The Repository published a collection in its annual festival tabloid edition entitled “40 things different about this year’s Hall of Fame Festival.”
    The Ribs Burnoff, normally downtown starting Tuesday, moved sites and it didn’t begun until Thursday. The NFL Experience was shifted from Don Scott Field to the fairgrounds, to coincide with the days of the Burnoff.
    The Queen’s Pageant changed months, from May to June. The Drum and Bugle Corps competition in Massillon changed weekends, to the first weekend of the festival. The downtown concert and fireworks changed days, from Thursday to Sunday. The Hall of Fame golf match, once Monday before the Enshrinees Gameday Luncheon, was taken off the schedule.
    Canton Memorial Civic Center became relatively quiet on the day that once was its busiest of the year. The Enshrinees Civic Dinner was delayed from Friday until Saturday and the Friday Mayor’s Breakfast was eliminated.
    The enshrinement itself, which already had been moved from Saturday in front of the Hall of Fame to the adjacent Fawcett Stadium, now was rescheduled for Sunday.
    “In an emotional, nationally-televised ceremony that began in a downpour and ended in sunshine nearly 3 1⁄2 hours later, Marcus Allen, Elvin Bethea, Joe DeLamielleure, James Lofton and Hank Stram became the latest to join the prestigious group,” reported The Repository the next day.
    But the most talked about alteration to the Hall of Fame Festival schedule was the change in days and venue of the Ribs Burnoff.
    “Neighbors are concerned about safety and traffic,” The Repository noted the day before the event. “Some residents are upset that downtown Canton has lost its hallmark event. Others love the idea.”
    More room and a greater number of activities for families were reasons given for the change.
    “It seems like it’s a bit more relaxed. There’s a lot of green, instead of asphalt,” Craig Farrar of Apple Creek said on the first day of the Burnoff in comparing the two venues.
    The Burnoff had its usual concerts, but entertainers — Hootie & the Blowfish among them — performed on a stage in front of the grandstand instead of on downtown streets.
    Page 2 of 2 - In the end, a difference of opinion still existed over the wisdom of the move — a debate that continues to this day.
    “I like it,” Annie Belle of Canton told The Repository 10 years ago. “It’s still Hall of Fame time.”