Fans kickoff Sunday with morning tailgate

January 23, 2011 6:20:16 PM PST
Start with the oldest rivalry in the NFL, add in the fact that the Bears-Packers match-up is for the right to get to the Super Bowl, and then, mix in a little lake-effect snow as a backdrop, and you get a great day for a Soldier Field showdown.

Parking lots at Soldier Field were not set to open to tailgaters until 10 a.m. Sunday, four hours before the game. But, of course, that did not mean that die-hard fans couldn't tailgate earlier. They just had to find some place else to do it!

For some fans, that place was the 31st Street lot at McCormick Place. Die-hards were there as early as 6 a.m. Sunday. The tents went up, the flags were raised, the grills were fired up, and one fan even had a full sound system ready and said a DJ would join the party later.

ABC7 talked to a lot of the early-risers about the game, their predictions, and of course, the football food.

"We're having bacon, ham, egg and cheese McMuffins, followed by some Texas-style beef ribs," said tailgater Robert Knackstedt. "We've got a little gumbo to warm the insides. Then, we'll do some steak sandwiches at the end to bring into the game."

"I've been nervous all week," said fan Al Prete. "I couldn't sleep. This morning, we were up at 3 o'clock. We were ready to go at 3 this morning. To be honest with you, it's a blessing no matter what happens, but in my heart of hearts, we're gonna win."

Bears fan Pres. Barack Obama also weighed in on Sunday's game. A White House spokesman says the president predicted the Bears would take the NFC title with a score of 20-17. Mr. Obama has also said that if the Bears win, he'll attend the Super Bowl in Dallas February 6.

Many fans say they've had some butterflies going in to Sunday's game. Of course, Bears-Packers is not just a big rivalry, but the Packers are a hard team to go up against.

The last time the two teams met during the playoffs was 1941, just one week after Pearl Harbor.

Meanwhile, kick-off for the showdown at Soldier Field is at 2 p.m., but preparations are already under way early Sunday morning on the field. Groundskeepers at Soldier Field covered the field with a blue tarp earlier this weekend as heaters and underground heating coils helped to keep the field warm and dry.

They don't expect the snow that fell Sunday morning to pose much of a problem.

"When we look at minor accumulation, what we do is salt the entire stadium so nothing sticks, so we don't have much to remove snow-wise," said Soldier Field Media Director Luca Serra.

Approximately 20 crew members with shovels could be seen at approximately 8 a.m. clearing the way outside of the stadium.

Crews also salted all the stands Saturday and were set to go out again Sunday to make sure everything is in good shape.