They trickle onto the damp field in street clothes already wet upon their arrival. It is a rainy day, and the weather does not suit the sensitive instruments. They stay in the cases.
They will be playing in front of thousands in just a matter of hours, but the rain has definitely put a damper on the on the rehearsal.
In a half hour, band leaders will call off practice 45 minutes early. The weather is just not conducive to the band's usual game day routine.
Polk Place is damp and empty except for several blue and white canopies. Rows of folding chairs and a sprinkling of fans carrying UNC umbrellas begin to weave through campus.
In a few hours the roar from Kenan Stadium will take over this section of campus, but for now the most noticeable noises are the slamming of truck doors as workers unload folding tables and supplies. Pillars of balloons mark the path the football team will take as it walks through the quad later in the afternoon.
Franklin Haignere, an Interactive Playground employee, jokes about the rain as he slings a pile of rope toward a tarp that he and his partner are beginning to uncrinkle. "We're setting up a 110-foot obstacle course and slide," he says, calling the attraction one of the highlights of Tar Heel Town.
Parents supporting Boy Scout Troop 845 of Carrboro are bustling around one of the snack stands. They are wheeling carts, stacking boxes, studying lists and crunching numbers on paper.
Sixth-grader and Boy Scout Chris Collins is smashing ice chunks with a metal spoon. In a few hours, he will make his way out into the sea of fans to provide people with refreshments as they cheer on their teams. Collins enjoys this form of fund raising for his troop, even though he doesn't get to watch the game. "You can stop and watch for a little bit, but fans are usually constantly wanting food," he says.
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The fans can get pretty crazy, he recalls. "I had one person that I thought was flagging me down, but then I eventually learned that he was just cheering on UNC."
While Collins and the other Boy Scouts maneuver the stands selling sodas, popcorn, and other snacks, the adults manage home base -- the food stand. Troop treasurer Joyce Harris-Nord, who showed up to start working at 11 a.m., says, "We're pretty tired by the end of the day."
Tar Heel Town
The Oldies 100.7 crew pulls speakers and stereo equipment from a black van, preparing a stage for Tar Heel Town that is flanked on either side by big screen televisions. A gust of cold wind whips at a General Alumni Association banner as a pack of Marching Tar Heels, regal looking in their blue and black uniforms and tall hats, move along the brick sidewalk.
Several families pause to watch as the inflatable interactive playground, a jumbled heap of colorful plastic rising slowly off the ground, begins to take shape.
Craig Marks is already cooking his chili.
As the faculty adviser for the UNC Skydiving Club, Marks helps run the food stand that the club works to raise money on home football game days. He runs a "benevolent dictatorship," allowing club members to watch some of the game amidst their selling.
He knows the concessions add to the spirit of the game. "Can you imagine 15,000 students showing up here with little brown bag lunches?" he asks.
"It just wouldn't be the same."
Top of the Hill
As game time approaches, Top of the Hill Restaurant on Franklin Street is bustling with the movement of pregame excitement.
The bar is decorated with Carolina blue and white balloons and packed with both UNC and ECU fans.
Tricia Wessels, a hostess at Top of the Hill and sophomore communications major, says business has picked up since the previous week's victory.
"Tonight, the bar is going to be crazy. Football days are usually crazy, but I think FSU just triggered this huge attendance," she says.
As for the customers, fans clad in both Carolina blue and East Carolina gold and purple share in anticipation and excitement of the game.
Many drove from out of town to have some fun with friends and fellow fans to view the face-off between the two teams -- ending up at Top of the Hill.
"We're just having some lunch and meeting up with friends before the game," says Kinzy Tippett, a UNC alumna who drove from Wilmington. "We have season tickets, so we usually come back for the games."
Deborah Morse, also a UNC alumna, drove 4 1/2 hours from Anderson, S.C., with her family to see the game.
"The traffic was a lot heavier than usual," she says.
Charles Smith, an avid ECU fan who was with two UNC fans, drove an hour and a half from Wilson to view the rivalry.
As for the UNC fans he was with, he says, "They are close friends no matter who wins."
Tar Heel Town
As a helium tank puffs out bright balloons, lines start to form at the barbecue tent. Jackie Wilson's 1960s hit "Higher and Higher" echoes from the Oldies 100.7 tent as a mom dances with her toddler.
Blake Smith says he enjoys eating at Tar Heel Town before the FSU game. "This is one of my favorite parts of pregaming -- it's really good barbecue."
Polk Place looks like a Student Stores fashion show, with throngs of fans sporting UNC T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, jerseys, tattoos and ponchos.
Chris Sheffield, assistant manager of Classic Food Services, hustles around with his cell phone at his ear. His goal is to "keep the fans happy." Classic Food Services, which is based in Durham, averages 15,000 hot dogs sold per game and about 1,800 pounds of french fries. The newest hot item on the menu is the chicken strip basket, the entire stock of which the fans gobbled up in the first 20 minutes of the previous week's game.
Women in short khaki and blue dresses mill around the plush Players Lounge in the Kenan Football Center.
"How was your week?" one woman calls out to another. "Fine," comes the reply as the pair joins the others in the room.
They chatter, giggle, smile, wait and watch. These are the Carolina Blues, students dedicated to working for UNC football by showing around high school football prospects.
While the junior Carolina Blues leave to go blow up balloons, seniors sit around on leather chairs and lean against Carolina blue pool tables under colorful photos of past great football players.
When the recruits saunter in, the Carolina Blues greet them. The men take in the room with its large television screens and wood paneling, having visions of stardom at UNC. The first group of recruits, followed by family members and coaches, is already being led out of the room by a pair of Carolina Blues eager to share the inner workings of the UNC football program.
The stadium is locked and quiet except for a helicopter that flies overhead and the few concession workers who are setting up. The overhead lights are on in Kenan Stadium, and an older couple dressed in light blue patiently wait for Gate 3 to open.
A man is standing just outside the gate selling game programs with UNC player Bosley Allen on the cover. Herman Robinson of Chapel Hill has been selling programs at the football games for six years. "I usually come early to catch the tailgaters," he explains.
Meanwhile, Cliff Decker, who is in charge of Gate 3, is ready for a big crowd. He says, "We have extra people that are going to help us take tickets."
Tar Heel Town
The UNC Marching Tar Heels assemble along a brick path in the center of Polk Place, and tubas begin to warm up, bellowing chords and song fragments.
Groups of fans cluster in anticipation of the football team's arrival, and the buzz of conversations and laughter show the rain has dampened the ground but not spirits.
"What is everyone waiting for?" asks one purple-and-gold-clad ECU fan.
A UNC fan responds, "The winning team is about to run through."
A line of mostly ECU fans clad in yellow and purple rain slickers is forming outside Gate 1, which will not open for another 20 minutes. The only people allowed to enter the stadium are concession stand workers.
Christy Holleman, a UNC sophomore who checks in the concession workers, reported to the stadium at 10 a.m. and will stay until all concession workers have gone home at about 8 p.m.
Holleman says she will check in about 250 concession stand workers on the north side of the stadium while her counterpart on the south side will do the same. A member of the UNC fencing team checks in, and Holleman attaches a white wristband with pink flamingos to his right arm.
Tar Heel Town
Shouts and applause ripple through the long line of fans as UNC's football team makes its way from the Old Well through Polk Place and on to Kenan Stadium. The band plays the UNC alma mater as part of the crowd follows the players.
"I'm a Tar Heel born, I'm a Tar Heel bred and when I die, I'll be Tar Heel dead," chants Julie Smith, who says the rain hasn't stifled her excitement. "My feet are cold, but that is the only negative. I'm ready for this game."
Music streams from the Kenan-Flagler Business School's parking lot as fans for UNC and ECU prepare for the day's game. Rain pours down, but the football fans' show of devotion does not subside.
Recreational vehicles line the parking lot as fans eat fried chicken, drink beer and make optimistic predictions about the game.
Most are local North Carolinians, but some have traveled far to join in the celebrations and support UNC's football team.
Six fans from Charleston, S.C., congregate outside their black sport utility vehicle and show their UNC pride. Five of the six are alumni, and all of them travel frequently to Chapel Hill to attend games.
William Ashcroft and Worth Lippfert, 1997 graduates, speak of their game predictions. Ashcroft explains the importance of Julius Peppers to the team and expects a 14-point UNC victory.
Lippfert speaks of the long lineage of UNC alumni that exists in his family. Then, bringing up times such as when their fraternity stole Christmas decorations, the two remember good times and reminisce about their past days at UNC.
The overcast and periodic rain did not stop junior Dan Mishin and friends from flipping their usual burgers and downing several cold ones at his Kingswood apartment.
Mishin, a psychology major, transferred to UNC after his sophomore year at ECU.
"It's a confrontation because a lot of them are my friends, and they just give me a hard time because I'm at UNC now, and they're still at ECU," he said. "Sucks for them, I guess."
Tailgating regularly before football games at his Chapel Hill apartment, Mishin has a larger crowd than usual because his ECU friends came for the game, which would determine bragging rights.
Mishin and his friends from ECU started the cookout at 11 a.m. At around noon, most of his UNC friends came to join.
About a dozen people were outside next to the grill, finding shelter underneath the second floor stairway. The other dozen pre-gamers stayed inside watching the Maryland-Virginia football game in the living room or talking pregame smack in the kitchen about who would win that day at Kenan Stadium.
"The weather didn't dampen the party spirit," says ECU junior Travis Holloman. "Now the game, it might hinder the outcome of the game. It might give us a little advantage."
Despite all the trash talking, students from both schools emphasized their desire to have fun partying together and watching the game.
"If it's an ECU win, we're going to tear up Franklin Street," Holloman says. "If not, we're still going to tear up Franklin Street, party to a Carolina win. Either way, we are going to party."
Kim Taylor and Leslie Bauknight, senior Carolina Blues, are in the middle of their tour of the Kenan Football Center. The prospects stand in the $1.7 million, football players-only weight room listening as Taylor, who jokingly has said she joined the Carolina Blues because she "loves to run (her) mouth," rattles off impressive statistics and highlights of the new facility.
The high school football prospects whistle in awe and wander wide-eyed among the custom-made weights.
Each disk is emblazoned with a raised rams head and the words "Carolina Football." Memorabilia of many different bowl games hangs on the wall, offering inspiration to the players. Taylor encourages the men to compare their personal statistics against the Ram Football Record Board, prompting a flurry of mumbled exclamations between the prospects and their coaches.
The recruits leave the room giving sly nods to their coaches.
It is now less than two hours before game time, but as expected, the student gate is still quiet. Jed Prossner, a ticket taker and freshman lacrosse player at UNC, jokes with his friends while waiting for the students to come. The game is sold out, and the security director at the stadium has told ticket takers to "be on (their) toes."
Just inside Gate 5, three police officers chat in the drizzle that has fallen for much of the morning. Other than a few fans wearing Carolina blue walking around the concourse, the stadium is quiet. Many fans are huddled under the concession area of the west end zone, which is covered and provides a refuge from the rain.
N4 Parking Lot
A man driving a red Chevy Blazer, decorated in purple and gold and ECU memorabilia, flashes his Cobb parking decal at events parking employee Bill Correll Jr. Correll jokingly asks, "How did you pull that off?"
The driver passes through, parks in the N4 lot and prepares for the football game. The passes are reserved for the Education Foundation personnel, which govern the lots on football game Saturdays.
Correll says, "Once the game is over, parking is fair game."
Security guard Toni Whitfield of Durham scans the field from her position in Section 115. UNC quarterback Ronald Curry is on the field throwing with a handful of other UNC players. The blue seats of the west end zone are still visible as most fans have yet to make their way across South Road from Tar Heel Town. The drizzle has begun to taper off, and Whitfield pulls back the hood of her clear rain slicker.
She begins to eat her barbecue sandwich as she explains the benefits of her job. "Most of us are enjoying the game on top of watching what is going on (in the stands)," she says. Whitfield, as with most security guards, reports to the stadium about two hours before kickoff. She says the main focus of her job today is to keep the fans safe.
"We are looking for people to be really careful about standing on seats," she says. "We want to keep it safe."
After dining at the Carolina Brewery, football fans wait outside in the rain for a ride to the game.
But their ride is a little different. It's a trolley sponsored by the brewery for game days.
The trolley, which is actually a Chapel Hill Transit Bus, is a service provided for Carolina Brewery customers on football Saturdays and runs from the restaurant's location at 460 W. Franklin St. to Kenan Stadium.
Driver Felix Bloch says he has been shuttling fans to football and basketball games for years now.
"I've been in this one-person operation since the beginning, with the opening of the brewery five or six years ago," he says. "I dare say I've done it as often as anybody."
As the trolley rolls toward Kenan stadium, the fans participate in cheerful banter about Carolina football.
"We've been making the trips for quite sometime," says Lynn and Jeanette Cummings, who drove an hour from Greensboro to see the game. "We're ready for the Tar Heels to pull out and win."
Tar Heel Town
Two Student Stores employees say they have seen "so-so" sales today at the Student Stores tent in Tar Heel Town. "We came out to set up at 12:30, and all of our ponchos are gone, and most of the cushions too," one says.
Rick Myers purchased two of those ponchos for his kids, Paul and Grace, after arriving at Tar Heel Town from Greensboro. "I'm sure some people might not come out because of the rain, but we didn't let it stop us," he says.
Tar Heel Town
Even though the rain isn't ruining the fun at Tar Heel Town, it is putting limits on the activities. Despite the large number of children at Tar Heel Town, the huge inflatable obstacle course in front of South Building is empty.
"A lot of people have wanted to go up, but it's been too wet and slippery," Haignere says. "Hopefully next time we'll have better weather."
Ten-year-old Rachel Welser runs outside The Shrunken Head, turning her face up toward her mom to boast a little blue Tar Heel on her cheek.
Rachel is one of the 2,000 people to visit the store on Franklin Street to get a free face painting and a "Beat ECU" button before the game. In her hand is a Tar Heel blue balloon she was given at Johnny T-Shirt.
Waves of Carolina blue dressed fans swarm stores such as Johnny T-Shirt, Whim's and The Shrunken Head buying clothing, pompoms and, according to Whim's store manager, Kim Hollcib, "lots and lots of ponchos."
N4 Parking Lot
Finally, traffic into the N4 Lot decreases.
In a break, Correll says, "As events parking employees, we are monitors for this lot. Our directors and instructions come from the traffic office."
Correll also says students need to learn the rules of parking during football game Saturday. "Since freshmen aren't allowed to have cars, they may not understand the ramifications or the parking situation during this season. It's a shame because one sophomore didn't realize the consequences this morning until 7:30."
Dr. John Iseman and Dr. Mark Borowitz play football with their sons in the sprinkling rain. They have traveled from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to take a sabbatical from their responsibilities and marital duties at home.
The two 1986 graduates have set out on the weekend excursion to bond and show their sons first hand why UNC is so unique.
Iseman explains how much he loves UNC and how he tries to travel to Chapel Hill at least two or three times a year to attend games.
The two men joke among themselves about what constitutes a real doctor -- Iseman is a dentist and Borowitz a surgeon.
Their opinions about the opposing team are sprinkled with expletives as they make pointed comments about the qualities of the school. As lifetime alumni members, their enthusiasm for their alma mater is evident in their speech.
Iseman says, "UNC plants a seed in your heritage that lasts a lifetime."