CANTON, Ohio – Final preparations are underway in Canton as the city and region prepare to host thousands of visitors to celebrate some of the best ever to have played the game of football.
Enshrinement week activities for the Pro Football Hall of Fame begin Wednesday morning with 3,000 children passing a football in a human chain from the location in downtown Canton where professional football first began to the steps of the Hall of Fame.
Around the Hall of Fame, a large tent city has been built to host receptions, a “Hall of Fame Experience,” vendors selling licensed merchandise, an autograph tent and concessions.
Roger Harbaugh Jr., of Exeter Pennsylvania, is here for the second year in a row with a company called Hunt Auctions, which sells guaranteed 100 percent authentic autographed merchandise.
“Its exciting because the fans just get so involved with the parade and the induction and the Hall of Fame game and its the kickoff to the new season, and things are just so excited and you are enshrining some of the people who are the greats that have ever played the game,” Harbaugh said.
Away from the property of the Hall of Fame, the city of Canton was also preparing for activities it will host over the coming days including a fashion show luncheon on Friday, the grand parade on Saturday and “The Eleven,” which includes a walkable series of 11 pieces of world-class art throughout downtown Canton celebrating the greatest moments in professional football.
“This is our most exciting week of the year. There are a lot of great activities throughout the year in Stark County, but this is kind of really our crown jewel,” said Allie Bussey, of the Stark County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Bussey said more than 4,500 volunteers have helped make hosting the event possible in addition to the paid staffs of the Hall of Fame, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce.
“The numbers that we have suggest that there are 700,000 guests that experience the events throughout the week. And we know from the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s annual report that just the media coverage alone is worth about $80 million so you can’t even put a price tag on all the social media and viral things that happen online with all of our social platforms these days,” she said.
Football fans from around the country were already arriving in Canton on Tuesday prepared to spend the remainder of the week here taking in all of the activities, including Matteo Reina, of New Jersey, who wanted the trip to help celebrate his 13th birthday.
“I’m excited. I want to see my favorite player Ed Reed get inducted into the Hall of Fame.” Reina said.
Also excited about hosting this year’s enshrinement activities is Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker.
“The NFL was founded here in Canton, but this year we are kicking off its 100th season so it’s always special to get football again, but to have the 100th season is really really special,” Baker said.
“It wasn’t that long ago here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame where people would bring their lawn chairs and sit for free as guys were enshrined on the steps, and now we will fill Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, not only for the football game, but for the enshrinement as well,” Baker said.
“Canton, Ohio and Northeast Ohio is synonymous with excellence this time of year. I always love how our police and fire and FBI and security all work together,” he said.