Party in the parking lot

Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 2:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 2:05 p.m.

MIAMI - About 20 rows of tailgaters had filled a corner of the Dolphin Stadium parking lot by early Thursday afternoon, hours before the start of the BCS National Championship Game between Florida and Oklahoma.


January 8, 2009-- Miami, FL-- Sisters Mary, Elizabeth and Caroline Delegas, of Tallahassee, pose during the official BCS Championship Tailgate party before the BCS National Championship outside Dolphin Stadium.

Brian W. Kratzer/The Gainesville Sun

They were a bright crowd - as sunny as the clear sky above - in their team-colored tents, with their CD players blaring and the aroma of barbecue in the 72-degree breeze.

Some fans had paid the $20 to enter the Budweiser National Championship Tailgate Party, where they could listen to music, and buy $7 beers and $5 hot dogs. They queued up to buy team merchandise and strolled around in elaborate costumes.

UF sophomore Richelle Henf, of Sebastian, and her family had arrived in two vehicles and were tailgating near the stadium. Her dad erected a double-flag contraption while her uncle set up a small TV and stereo system.

"It's really awesome - all the spirit and all the fans," she said. "It's definitely a great atmosphere."

Across the lane, several Sooners in sat in folding chairs. The men were dressed in crimson and cream.

They were part of a group of 13 men and boys - ages 8 to 82 - in the Beller family of Norman, Okla.

Did they feel surrounded by Gators?

"Yeah - a lot of teeth," said Rocky Beller, one of the men.

"They're good neighbors, though, so far," said 82-year-old Roy Beller.

"I think the biggest thing is everybody respects the other team," Rocky Beller said. "Even though everybody thinks their team's going to win ... everybody realizes it could go the other way, as well."

As the afternoon progressed, trucks and sport utility vehicles and cars kept pulling in, and families tumbled out - mostly dressed in orange and blue - and popped open their hatches and unfolded their tents and table cloths and grills.

Team flags sailed in the gusty breeze, inflatable gators bobbed on top of parked vans and everywhere UF fans walked around wearing No. 15 jerseys.

At 4 p.m., a Gator Jamboree with the UF cheerleaders, band and mascots was set to kick off at the Budweiser tailgate party.

Game time is 8 p.m.

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