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Pigskin Pleasures

Hail Mary and thank the Lord: Football is back.

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Around Northeast Ohio, football is as sacred as any other Sunday ritual. So you can imagine the high holiness of the days leading up to August 3, when the latest class is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

Despite the 11 days of festivals, cook-offs, parades, competitions, and concerts, the faithful shouldn't lose sight of what's truly significant, warns Joe Horrigan, vice president of communications for the hall of fame. "We feel the most important event is the enshrinement. It's what we're all here for. Everything else is just decoration."

For those fans who lust for more than the sight of weepy football greats in mustard-colored blazers, here's the schedule of decorations for the next week and a half:

July 26-28: The Jackson-Belden Food Fest and Balloon Classic Invitational kicks off the celebration, with more than 60 hot-air balloonists taking the skies over Kent State University's Stark Campus, while vendors supply tasty eats below.

July 28: 1,600 people haul ass in a 10K or two-mile Kickoff Race at the Hall of Fame Fitness Center. A community parade, band concert, and fireworks round out the day's festivities at McKinley National Memorial.

July 30-August 1: The Ribs Burnoff features 54 food booths, fireworks, and the sweet sounds of bands like Night Ranger and Kool & the Gang.

August 2: The Mayor's Breakfast presents this year's enshrinees, who will sport their jackets for the very first time. "The mayor will sing the National Anthem," festival director Joanne Murray promises. "He's a singing mayor."

August 3: The Hoover Company Grand Parade begins at 7:30 a.m. in downtown Canton, followed by the enshrinement ceremony at Fawcett Stadium at noon.

August 5: The Houston Texans make their first appearance, against the New York Giants, in the first preseason game of the year. Let us bow our heads and give thanks.

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