Corridor of Fame Enjoyable Fest will get get together began with followers, meals, beer and enjoyable
CANTON – Eric Welborn, a Dallas Cowboys super fan, stood in his “Captain America’s Team” blue, white and silver costume.
It is a football uniform-superhero hybrid.
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Armed with a hue-altered Captain America shield and wearing the Marvel character’s mask emblazoned with the Cowboy star logo, he happily posed for photos with fellow football fans at the Fun Fest and Beer Fest on Thursday during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival.
The North Carolina resident was joined by his 15-year-old daughter, Sophie Welborn. Coming to Canton dressed in Cowboys-themed regalia is a tradition.
“It’s always such an awesome experience coming out here showing our fandom and interacting with fans of other teams,” he said. “It’s such a family-friendly environment.”
While the father was talking football, Gina Zozaya approached Welborn politely and made a request on behalf of her 29-year-old daughter, Amber O’Neal, who is in a wheelchair.
O’Neal’s twin sister, Ashley O’Neal, died in 2019 from the disease PDH — pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency, Zozaya explained.
And they came to Canton to make mother-daughter memories and watch the Cowboys play the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night in the Hall of Fame game.
Amber O’Neal is also diagnosed with PDH, a disease characterized by the buildup of lactic acid in the body and a variety of neurological issues.
“That’s one of the reasons we do this,” Eric Welborn said. “For the little kids and meeting people and having a great time — that makes it worth it while sweating.”
Hall of Fame Fun Fest a ‘Magical experience’
The poignant moment was born out of the surrounding festivities on the grounds of the Hall of Fame.
Beer was being served in a large tent. Music was blasting from the sound system. Fans were waiting for a ticketed autograph session to begin with some of the enshrinees. Footballs were being thrown at targets for fun. Merchandise was being sold.
“It’s just going to be a magical experience for her,” Zozaya said of her daughter.
When asked how excited she was for the upcoming game, O’Neal hollered: “Yeah!”
Joining Zozaya and O’Neal was 73-year-old Harriet Buxbaum, a retired nurse from Florida who cared for O’Neal as a patient when she was younger. Now she’s a close family friend and considered O’Neal’s “grandmother.”
Packers photo shoot
Elsewhere across the Hall of Fame campus was a parade of football jerseys worn by fans representing a plethora of teams and legendary players.
Early Thursday afternoon, fans were trickling into the fun fest, but the stage was empty and the atmosphere was festive yet mellow.
Throngs of football faithful were expected to be streaming in closer to game time. More activities and entertainment also were planned.
Arriving before the rush were Tim Parsons, 48, of Louisville, and Chris Nelson, 23, of Canton.
Both were costumed from head to toe in Green Bay Packers green and gold.
And like Welborn, the duo was kindly granting photo requests from fans who were wearing another team’s jersey or shirt.
“A lot of people will say I’m not a Packers fan but I know someone who’s a Packers fan,” Parson said. “That means the world to me, even though I know when the season starts, we’re rivals, but at an event like this, everybody starts at zero and with a fresh slate.”
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IF YOU GO
WHAT: Hall of Fame Fun Fest and Beer Fest
WHERE: Pro Football Hall of Fame campus
WHEN: noon to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: Fun Fest is free and beer and adult beverages are sold at the Beer Fest