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The Daily Tar Heel
9:18 a.m.

Pam Atkins, clad in a gray UNC T-shirt, denim shorts and miniature American flag pin, kicks a box stuffed with Carolina blue and white pompoms, sending it tumbling end over end down the steps of Kenan Stadium.

The box stops upside down at Row W. She tears open the box and shakes out a bundle of pompoms, sending confetti-sized pieces of plastic flying. Atkins then sidles between the bleachers, placing a pompom on every other seat of Section 120. Sections 115 through 119 are already a sea of Carolina blue and white.

Atkins, a resident of Graham, says the Sports Marketing Department asked her to help and that she is here before every home game laying out 9,000 pompoms in the student sections. The total was 25,000 before the department cut it back, but Atkins is optimistic that the number will increase again.

Atkins drops another pompom down on the bleachers. She says she thinks the pompoms make the game atmosphere more exciting and supportive.

"It's great for the fans from other schools to see the wave of blue, and it lets the team know the fans are behind them," Atkins says. "The players have thanked me before and are always appreciative of the support, winning or losing."

Atkins squints her eyes against the bright sunlight reflected off the pale silver bleachers. She shuffles across Row X with four giant bundles of shakers under her arms. She's almost done with Section 120.

Then it's on to Section 121.

10:15 a.m.

Woody's Tar Heel Tavern & Grill Manager Tom Carey has been around the bar for a little more than an hour, bartender Tony Lopez, just 10 minutes. Both sit talking while they wait on the beer to arrive. It's time to stock up for the weekend's game crowd.

Carey expects to go through 25 to 30 bottles of liquor and 40 to 50 cases of beer.

"We had one of the busiest days ever when we played Florida State," Carey says. "It should be jam-packed all day."

Carey says visiting fans will be served under one condition. "We'll serve them as long as they behave," he says.

On game day the staff will arrive early to open at 8 a.m.

"We serve breakfast with Bloody Marys, so people will get here early to get a seat for the day," Carey says.

It will be 45 minutes until Eric, the Anheuser Busch guy arrives.

And with him is the weekend beer.

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3:45 p.m.
Education Foundation

"It's nuts around here," says Russell James, vice president of membership for the Education Foundation.

The Education Foundation, an organization that raises money for athletic scholarships through the sale of season tickets for all North Carolina athletics, is the place to call for alumni interested in getting last-minute tickets to UNC football games.

On this day, staff members frantically answer a constantly ringing phone and deal with the occasional walk-in client.

The foundation also handles a number of services associated with season ticket holders, including skyboxes, priority parking and the Ram's Room, a pregame party held for season ticket holders in the Kenan Field House.

Foundation employees say they receive countless phone calls, with people asking about everything from parking to how to get the game on television.

"The phone rings off the hook," says Foundation Administrative Assistant Janine Holland.

And the ringing continues through game day. The office reopens two hours before kickoff to facilitate those who do not have parking passes.

"We write temporary passes for the game if people forget," Holland says.

But despite the calls, the questions and the answers, the employees say they are happy with their jobs.

Holland says, "We're not complaining."

4 p.m.
Carolina Inn

The Carolina Inn is serving fresh baked cookies with lemonade and iced tea in the foyer.

It's a game weekend tradition.

Home and visiting team fans enjoy the snack while talking about the upcoming game. The friendly atmosphere belies the competitive spirit preceding the game.

Two hours later, guests will make their way to the courtyard, set with tables covered with white linen, where servers offer complimentary wine, varied French cheeses and succulent shishkebabs.

For the past 50 years, before UNC home games football fans have been going to the inn, where rooms sell out in hours, says Sara Gray, director of operations.

Gray, who has worked here for six years, knows many of the guests and greets them by name.

Some patrons request the same room each season, she says, and at least half of the 184 rooms go to the regular football revelers.

"One guest wants the identical room he has stayed in for the past few decades," Gray says. "This gives him a view of his old fraternity and the path that he took to school when he was an undergrad here in the 1950s."

Gray says this can become complicated when two guests insist on the same room.

She recalls the situation when a patron waited at the front desk, "screaming that he wanted to be in Room 210 and not 209." Gray says the problem was resolved only when he got "his" room.

7 p.m.

Desk clerks are turning away unsuspecting travellers coming in off the road without reservation at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Durham.

On the eve of UNC football game, about 40 of the hotel's 150-plus rooms are booked by members of ECU's Pirate Club -- fans willing to travel for their big game.

"When there's an event like this it definitely benefits the hotels in the area," says Al Smith, an employee at the hotel.

The parking lot is filled with with cars flying Pirate flags, but the lobby is quiet. Smith says the guests, mostly older couples, haven't made much noise.

"We haven't heard about any wild parties," Smith says, "But if ECU wins tomorrow that might change."

7:03 p.m.

The day before they hit the field for a football game, North Carolina's football team comes in two buses to Park Place Theatre in Morrisville to take a collective load off football.

Once inside the spacious lounge area, the players break off into groups -- defensive and offensive line, etc. -- and attend to their first line of business: the concession stand.

On the warm evening, nearly every player indulges in Minute Maid slurpees and popcorn.

The offensive lineman sit in sofas and chit chat, including Jupiter Wilson, who says he is planning to see "Rush Hour 2." Word is most players are going to see the action film "Training Day."

They seem relaxed. Several -- including running back Willie Parker and cornerback Michael Waddell -- laugh and razz each other.

While in line, kicker Jeff Reed says, "I'm trying to see something funny, get in a relaxed mood."

After they get their goods, the team members split off into two side entrances to see their respective films.

On this night, it's not about football, it's about flicks.

11:25 p.m.

Rameses, the UNC student mascot, works hard preparing in advance for his theatrics performed on game day.

Each game, Paul Holshouser, John Colpitts and Andrew Head transform into the school mascot, taking turns in Rameses' suit.

It's Friday night, and Holshouser and Colpitts rummage through a Chapel Hill dumpster for props to use in Saturday's game.

"Since ECU is a pirate we're thinking about making him walk the plank," says Holshouser, the senior mascot member. "So we're looking for a board."

Holshouser explains they usually go to Wal-Mart to buy cheap props but thought the store would not carry a board strong enough to hold the pirate.

The three mascot members plan their theatrics before the game to captivate a maximum crowd of 60,000 at Kenan Stadium.

"It's not good to ad lib," Holshouser says. "It's hard to convey complicated themes to the crowd."

He says dancing is key to being a good mascot. "A good mascot needs to be able to dance," he says while acting out Rameses, bouncing and moving his shoulders.

No matter how energetic or prepared the mascot members are, they must work with the opponent's mascot to put on a good show.

Before the second half of the game, the two sides discuss the plan for a joint effort in entertaining the crowd.

Holshouser says the mascots in the ACC usually have a good relationship but know the unwritten rules of being the home team's mascot.

In mascot tradition the home team is expected to have a final victory over the visiting team's mascot in a comical engagement.

"There's no actual violence because Rameses can't fight," Holshouser says. "He's sportsmanlike."

Go to Saturday...

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