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Published September 19, 2013, 08:17 PM

Fargo's getting its game face on for 'GameDay'

Thanks to ESPN’s “College GameDay,” the party will get an early start Saturday in downtown Fargo. Bars, restaurants and coffee shops will unlock their doors early to fuel the crush of Bison faithful expected to throng Broadway for the nationally broadcast college football show.

By: Helmut Schmidt, Forum News Service

FARGO – Thanks to ESPN’s “College GameDay,” the party will get an early start Saturday in downtown Fargo.

Bars, restaurants and coffee shops will unlock their doors early to fuel the green and yellow crush of Bison faithful expected to throng Broadway for the nationally broadcast college football show.

Dempsey’s Public House will open as soon as it’s legal, at 8 a.m., with its version of a breakfast of champions: breakfast burritos and Guinness on tap, General Manager Jeff Fonder said.

“It’s going to be a zoo downtown. It’s going to be awesome!” Fonder said.

Fargo Police Lt. Joel Vettel said Wednesday that ESPN will be bring in nine large trucks today and Friday to prep for Saturday’s 8 to 11 a.m. national broadcast.

“It will be a very large production” with a large support crew, Vettel said. “This is not a 15-minute set-up.”

Several streets will close to traffic today, including Broadway between Second and Fourth avenues north, Third Avenue North between Broadway and Fifth Street, and Fifth Street North between Third and Fourth avenues.

(See accompanying story for a full list of closures and parking restrictions.)

Downtown business people scrambled Wednesday to find Bison merchandise to sell, or to get enough staff to serve a crowd expected in the thousands.

Eric Brown, manager of Art Materials, knows he’ll open at 8 a.m. Saturday. But will he have his own Bison memorabilia, or let someone else rent some of his storefront?

Supplies of Bison goods are tight, he said.

He tried to get a load of foam fingers from New York, but he waited a day too long. By Tuesday, the shipping price jumped more than $600.

“It’s going to be pretty crazy,” Brown said. “Go Bison!”

Boerth’s Gallery has covered its windows with Bison gear and will give away coupons Saturday, owner Michael Rohr said.

“We’re going to be in the midst of it, so we might as well have fun with it,” Rohr said.

Cindy O’Day, owner of O’Day Cache said she was driving 200 miles to get Bison metalwork to sell.

“I think it’s going to be so much fun,” she said.

Next door at Proper and Prim, her daughter Teresa O’Day decided to run a 20 percent off sale on anything in NDSU colors.

Sammy’s Pizza is at GameDay Ground Zero at Broadway and Third Avenue North.

Owner Teresa Tilock said they’ll serve coffee, doughnuts, and sausage and egg calzones starting at 6 a.m.

“I am so excited. Oh, my God, I’m a Bison fan forever,” Tilock said.

Angelique Kube, the manager at Atomic Coffee, said she’s been asked if she can provide a couple of reactors full of coffee for ESPN’s stage crews.

Keeping ESPN caffeinated isn’t a worry, Kube said. She wonders what will happen when the doors open at 6 a.m. to the chilled throng.

“It’s hard to tell, since it’s never happened before,” Kube said.

The HoDo Restaurant, two blocks south of the main stage, opens at 8 a.m. with a room service menu – eggs Benedict, French toast and Bloody Marys, owner Karen Stoker said.

The ESPN telecast will be projected on a wall, the former Bison volleyball player said.

“What a great opportunity for the whole region,” Stoker said.

Vettel said revelers will be packed from Second to Fourth avenues north along Broadway.

“We expect a huge crowd,” Vettel said. “It’s a huge area and it will fill up fast with people. It will be shoulder-to-shoulder.”

Alcohol will not be allowed on the streets and sidewalks.

“If they choose to drink in public … we will take enforcement on that.” Vettel said. “We’re not just going to turn a blind eye to it just because this is a special event.”

Tailgaters won’t be allowed downtown, and are asked to go to the Fargodome, he said.

Those trying to get into line before Friday night will be asked to move on, Vettel said.

Traffic is expected to be “extremely slow” downtown on Saturday. Vettel urged people to plan routes around downtown.

North Dakota State University will run 18 shuttle buses to and from downtown and the Fargodome and other campus locations starting about 6 a.m., Vettel said.

Parking will be at a premium.

“Expect to walk,” Vettel said.

Portable toilets and trash barrels are also being brought in for the crowds. Vettel said.

People who want to get in the roped-in areas near the stage will have their bags searched. No food or drink will be allowed, Vettel said.

Signs must have appropriate language, he said.

“Your sign is subject to consideration” because it’s ESPN’s broadcast and they want it to be a quality, family friendly event, Vettel said.

The Pickled Parrot will open at 8 a.m. with kegs of green beer and a satellite bar on the outdoors patio, General Manager Christ Whitson said.

At the Spicy Pie, there will be beer and hotdogs on the patio at 8 a.m., and the patio will expand into the parking lot with televisions to watch the show, General Manager Jared Puttbrese said.

Mary Brown, a 2012 NDSU graduate, decorated Spicy Pie’s windows.

“Lots of Bison pride around here. We’re excited!”.

Monte’s Downtown owner Christian D’Agostino said he is planning a special to serve the Saturday morning crowds.

“This is uncharted territory,” D’Agostino said.

Fargo Theatre Executive Director Emily Beck said she’s been “sworn to secrecy,” about ESPN’s GameDay plans.

The theater’s iconic sign will form part of the backdrop for the broadcast.

“We’re still trying to figure out what’s possible,” Beck said.

Erbert and Gerbert’s has a prime spot, but won’t be open until 9 a.m., said Manager Brad Fandrich.

“We’re scrambling around trying to get a staff put together. We’re just planning on serving a lot of people,” he said.

Jeremy Tjon, manager of the Empire tavern, said they’ll open at 8 a.m., as usual, on Saturday.

“We’re stocked up” on liquor, he said. “I’m looking forward to it,”

ESPN has a security crew, but has hired extra private security and will pay for extra Fargo police who work the event, Vettel said. That’s about 90 percent of all the costs of security, he said.

ESPN also has its own “green cleanup team” to pick up recyclables.

Bicycles will be a no-no in the blocked-off area.

“Understand, it’s going to be shoulder-to-shoulder in that corridor. It won’t be conducive to bicycles,” Vettel said.

Many of the revelers will be in the U.S. Bank plaza.

“We’re excited about this weekend and the buzz it’s creating in the community,” said Delton Steele, regional president of U.S. Bank. “We’re cooperating with the city of Fargo and ESPN to make it a successful event.”

Steele said customers will be able to access the bank.

The Downtown Community Partnership and the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau also kicked in money for the event, Vettel said.

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