Event to include gala, dedication of Centennial Plaza and community day. More information will be released in coming weeks.
CANTON One year from now, Canton will host a huge party that will require four days to celebrate fully.
The multimillion-dollar NFL Centennial Celebration is set for Sept. 16-19, with events centered around Sept. 17, 2020 — the NFL’s 100th birthday.
Festivities will include a gala, opening ceremonies for the next 100 years of football and a community day. Every person who played in an NFL game is being invited back to the place where the league was founded 99 years ago today.
“This great game was built on the shoulders of the NFL Legends who represent values like commitment, integrity, courage, respect and excellence,” said David Baker, president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “We will shine the spotlight on these virtues that not only makes someone great on the football field but can also teach us all how to live a ‘Hall of Fame life’ of character. This celebration will have a huge impact on our country.”
The celebration is the work of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL and regional business and government leaders.
“Canton, Ohio, is very proud to be the birthplace of the NFL, and the magnitude of this four-day celebration will be indicative of that tremendous pride,”said Jim Porter, chairman of the Centennial Celebration Host Committee and publisher and CEO of The Canton Repository. “We look forward to honoring the NFL, the great game of football and the thousands of people who built this league over the last 100 years.”
Much of the planning remains in progress, but here’s what’s tentatively on the schedule for the 2020 celebration:
• Wednesday, Sept. 16: Centennial Celebration Gala
The gala will be a ticketed event that will celebrate the historic 2020 enshrinement class.
In honor of the centennial, the Hall will enshrine 20 people in the 2020 class, including 10 senior candidates. Some of those people will give their speeches and be enshrined during the annual enshrinement festivities in August; others will be enshrined during the September gala.
Also during the gala, All-Century Awards will be given to the game’s best of the best.
• Thursday, Sept. 17: Centennial Plaza dedication
Centennial Plaza broke ground at the end of August and is scheduled to open next September. On the NFL’s 100th birthday, the plaza will be dedicated, as will the wall in the plaza that will list the names of the roughly 25,000 people who have played in the NFL. The dedication for the space is planned during an anticipated special cutaway from the national broadcast of Week 2’s Thursday night game.
The plaza is an estimated $12.3 million project that will transform the former Market Square area from a grassy lot to a gathering space with a stage, light features and a sculpture that replicates the football-shaped dome atop the Hall’s iconic building.
• Friday, Sept. 18: Centennial Spectacular
Several well-known musical acts are expected to perform a few songs each during an event at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium that will serve as an “opening ceremonies” for the next 100 years of football. An Olympics-like parade of past NFL players into the stadium is planned.
• Saturday, Sept. 19: Community day
Community day will be focused on local football, with NFL legends at high school football games throughout the community.
Tickets for events are not on sale yet. Information about events can be found at CantonCelebratesNFL100.com, and more details will be added to the website as planning continues.
Leading up to the centennial, there are a few ways to celebrate early.
Today, Mary Ann Donuts and Cafe is giving away free centennial doughnuts, which are football-shaped, cream-filled and chocolate-frosted. The doughnuts will be for sale for the rest of the year and can be pre-ordered for events. Free centennial window clings will be available with the doughnuts.
Also for the centennial, fans of the game will be asked to share their football memories for a display that will be used during the celebration. “Game for Life” postcards will be handed out in Stark County and at NFL events that ask people to respond to the question, “What does the game mean to you?” The Hall will collect, and later share, these memories, picking up on an idea was inspired by PostSecret.com, which features secrets that have been mailed in via postcard.)
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