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Hall of Fame set for Fan Fest in Cleveland

The Pro Football Hall of Fame will take its show on the road this weekend.

In the largest-ever gathering of its members outside of Canton, Ohio, the Hall of Fame will hold its inaugural “Fan Fest” on Saturday and Sunday at the I-X Center in Cleveland.

The event -- which its organizers say is unprecedented -- will include a chance for fans to meet the approximately 100 Hall of Famers in attendance.

“It’s an audacious attempt to let the Hall of Famers meet and greet the fans and get to know them,” Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises president and CEO George Veras said. “Nobody has ever tried something like this.”

Among those scheduled to attend are Jim Brown, Joe Namath, Barry Sanders, and Terry Bradshaw. The former players will team up over the two days to take part in several roundtable discussions and “chalk talk” sessions where fans will be able to ask questions about the upcoming draft.

Also on the itinerary: two performances Sunday of Bradshaw’s Las Vegas-style one-man show, “America’s Favorite Dumb Blonde.”

While the Hall of Fame will hold its traditional induction ceremony this August in Canton, about an hour south of Cleveland, it looked to create a separate event where its members could get more up-close and personal with fans.

“I want to give them a forum where people will learn and listen to them,” Veras said. “That’s why this is not just an autograph show.”

Fans will have a chance to get autographs -- tickets are sold separately -- for 16 different sessions with the Hall of Famers.

Among those scheduled to meet fans in Cleveland this weekend is former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Andre Reed, who was voted into the Hall of Fame this year and will be inducted in August. Reed says the event will be one of his first opportunities to be around so many members of the NFL’s most exclusive club.

“You’re part of a fraternity. You’re part of, to me, the greatest team that was ever assembled. You’re there forever,” Reed said. “You don’t get cut, they’re not going to do anything -- you’re just, you’re there. To be a part of that, it’s very special, man. You can’t even put it into words.

“There are a lot of guys that I haven’t met that I idolized as a kid that I’ll be able to finally meet, and talk to, and be on their team.”

It will be one of the first chances for fans to greet Reed as a Hall of Famer -- something he’s still not accustomed to hearing.

“I’m still getting used to the three letters (HOF),” he said. “It really chokes you up, man. It makes you feel like you’ve done something that only 287 people get to do -- get to have this -- in our profession.”

The Hall of Fame wants to use the event as a chance for Reed -- who played at little-known Kutztown University -- and his peers to talk about their journeys from small towns to the national stage in Canton.

“It’s not a straight path. Every one of them had immense barriers -- almost quitting, mentor that made one move and changed their lives in that way,” Veras said. “Seventy percent come from towns with 50,000 or less. The fight to get out of that and onto the main stage is an amazing life experience.”

In addition to the roundtable discussions and autograph sessions, the Hall of Fame will have 10 of its bronze busts from Canton on display each day.