Gators pack O’Dome for annual Fan Day

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Florida Gator quarterback Feleipe Franks greets Kim Giblin during Gator Fan Day, Sunday, August 11, 2019 at UF's indoor practice facility in Gainesville, Florida. The annual event gives fans the opportunity to meet and greet players, cheerleaders and head coach Dan Mullen. [Amy Davidson/Gainesville Sun Correspondent] 2019

By Emily Mavrakis, Staff writer

Kim and Brent Giblin stood dressed head to toe in orange and blue. Behind them, hundreds of other Florida Gator football fans waited for the quarterbacks to arrive in a line that snaked around the entire large room and ran the length of the natatorium inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

“We’re so beyond excited,” said Kim Giblin, who arrived outside the arena with her son at 9:30 a.m. for the 1:30 p.m. event.

About 3,000 to 4,000 Gator fans from far and near attended Gators Fan Day on Sunday afternoon, where they had the chance to meet with players, cheerleaders, dancers and head football coach Dan Mullen.

The Giblins traveled eight and a half hours from Smyrna, Tennessee, to meet the quarterbacks of their lifelong favorite team. Kim Giblin said she had been a fan since Emmitt Smith joined the team in 1987.

“We take a lot of grief,” she said, since all of their friends and other family members are Tennessee Volunteers’ fans. “But we’re still die-hard Gator fans.”

This year was the first time the Gilbins had ever been to the fan day event and Brent Giblin’s first visit to The Swamp.

For one Gator dad, fan day is a familiar sight.

Frankie Hammond, of Hollywood, Florida, attended wearing a blue Gators cap in support of his son Josh Hammond, a Gator wide receiver.

Hammond’s oldest son, Frankie Hammond Jr., played the same position for the Gators before moving on to play professionally.

Hammond said he drives four and a half hours to watch every home game.

“I’m just hoping they have a good season,” he said.

Jill Wright, from Amelia Island near Jacksonville, said she was glad the event catered to families, otherwise they might not have come.

She, her husband Kevin, oldest child Jim and 3-year-old Alexandria had posters signed by the cheerleaders.

Rosy-cheeked Alexandria held onto her stuffed teddy bear, Ruthie May, who was dressed in a Gators cheerleader uniform, as they met with the squad.

Jill Wright said her family hopes to make it to a game this season, and that fan day is a great way to get in spirit.

“It kind of gets you pumped up,” she said. “And we finally taught Alexandria how to say ‘Go Gators.’ ”

The Gators’ first game will take place Aug. 24 against the University of Miami Hurricanes at 7 p.m. at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.