Tailgating Championship Draws Big Crowd

Super Bowl event lures people out after storm freezes out business


All it took to gather a crowd in freezing temperatures was a tailgate party.

The National Tailgating Championship drew the biggest crowd of any event in downtown Fort Worth all week.

The big crowds expected by Fort Worth business and restaurants never materialized after a super-sized storm iced roads and crippled much of city. Statewide rolling blackouts didn't help, either.

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"It has put a little bit of a damper on the activities that we've had," said Tracy Gilmore, Sundance Square's director of marketing. "We've had to postpone a few things."

But after being stranded inside their homes, North Texans decided to bundle up rather than go stir crazy.

"The weather has been crazy," Abby Crowely said. "Three days down here with not being able to leave your house. The conditions on the road have been kind of crazy."

Super Bowl visitors also crowded the outdoor party.

Tailgaters from New York in green Jets jerseys drove more than 1,700 miles from Long Island to Fort Worth. It only took 33 hours.

"We went out the other day after the ice," said Gino Frisco, the grill master of the group's tailgate party. "There was not a soul on the road; stores were closed. Where is everybody? Nobody was nowhere."

Maybe help from New Orleans Saints tailgaters coaxed in a crowd. The people from the party city brought the party with them.

Or maybe Cowtown just needed a blessing from a Saint.

"I can feel the energy in the air," Saints running back Reggie Bush said. "Thursday is usually when everybody starts to come in. I just got here today, so I think this is when the party starts. Tonight, it'll start to feel like it's a Super Bowl week."

Gilmore said she is hopeful that Super Bowl visitors will thaw out business, pointing out that all of the city's hotels are sold out.

"We are really excited," she said. "I think all of those guests are arriving today and tomorrow, so that will help fill up all the restaurants and retail shops down here."

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