CANTON, Ohio — North Canton resident Karla Armstead has big plans to watch football and make plates upon plates of soul food throughout Labor Day weekend.
She’s the founder of Ladie K’s Kitchen & Family Catering Service — her business of 15 years.
“It's all homemade, everything is from scratch,” said Armstead. “I just love cooking, period. Everything about cooking I like, you know. Serving people and letting people taste different things.”
She has a special menu whipped up for this weekend as she is catering an event at The Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic. The band members of Grambling State University are the lucky ones to taste that menu.
”We have everything: ribs, yams, fish, chicken, hamburger, hotdogs, macaroni and cheese, greens, two types of greens, pork and turkey. So those that don't eat pork, we got the turkey greens for you,” said Armstead.
But don’t worry, she’s also a vendor on Saturday, Sept. 4, making food for locals and visitors who stop by Centennial Plaza starting at 11 a.m.
“Come ready to eat. Come ready on an empty stomach on Saturday,” said Armstead.
She’s excited about the opportunity to feed thousands of people, which can potentially grow her business.
“We're there to make money,” said Armstead. “So this will help us make money, you know, with things being down during the pandemic, so this is helping to recover some of the things we lost. So this is starting to open the doors back up where we can start back cooking more.”
She’s one of 39 vendors and one of three catering services in the area chosen to work the Classic through the Stark County Minority Business Association.
Ladie K’s is a member of the SCMBA.
Leonard Stevens is the CEO of the Stark County Minority Business Association, a nonprofit whose goal is to enhance partnerships between minority business members and majority-owned businesses to create greater economic impact.
He said this weekend is expected to bring in more than 14,000 people.
“It's going to really boost the economy here in Stark County during this three-day weekend,” said Stevens. “And we're just so excited about it.”
Although the events are held by the Black College Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s a weekend for the entire community and helps highlight and support minority-owned businesses.
A reception will be held where 300 businesses are expected to attend and network.
Stevens and the Stark County Minority Business Association have been working diligently to give more opportunities to minority-owned businesses in Stark County.
The SCMBA started in 2008 and was entirely volunteer-led.
They’ve since grown to a fully-paid staff and since 2019 have worked out of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce for free due to a healthy relationship with higher-ups there who are focused on bettering diversity and inclusion in the area.
SCMBA helps over 250 minority-owned businesses — a testament to the service they provide.
“They will be able to network and exchange cards,” said Stevens.
“This gives them an opportunity to grow their business because, at the end of the day, that's what we're working with them on. That's why we provide them the mentorship that we do for them, and access to capital because we want them to be able to scale and be able to take their business to the next level. That allows them to hire more people, which means they pay more taxes and it helps the entire economy if we can help them continue to gain contracts, not just for this weekend but all year round.”
On Saturday, Sept. 4, the Classic Fun Fest starts at 11 a.m. at Centennial Plaza in Canton. This event is free and open to the public.
Vendors will be there to sell food, apparel and art.
There will also be non-stop entertainment, including music, karaoke, line dancing, games, prizes and a talent show.
Starting at 5 p.m. on Centennial Plaza there is a free Faith, Family and Football Gospel Concert featuring 11-time Grammy-nominated artist Marvin Sapp.
Sunday, Sept. 5 is game day!
Starting at 11 a.m., there is a Classic Pregame Party at the Pro Football Hall of Fame campus. This event is free and open to the public and includes a marching band preview as the university marching bands enter the stadium.
At 4 p.m., the 2021 BCFHOF Classic game kickoffs featuring Grambling State University and Tennessee State University at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
“We have a lot of exciting things going on. And we just think that this is gonna be a great weekend,” said Stevens.
For more information on the weekend, visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s website.