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Belk Bowl: A football game, and a big party

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Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
Duke fans Christopher Young and his little brother Parker Young, 2, of Lexington, Va. at afternoon fan activities during Belk Bowl Fanfest Thursday December 27, 2012 outside Bank of AmericaStadium. DIEDRA LAIRD - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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  • Tar Heels football practice 12.24.13
  • Plenty of Belk Bowl activities set for Charlotte
  • Belk Bowl: A football game, and a big party
  • Belk Bowl: A football game, and a big party
  • Belk Bowl schedule

    FRIDAY

    Battle of the Bands, 4-5 p.m. NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at Caldwell Street. Featuring both schools’ marching bands.

    Fan Central party, 7-11 p.m. EpiCentre on East Trade Street. Cheerleaders, marching bands and mascots join the fan party in the courtyard.

    UNC basketball viewing party, 7 p.m. Blackfinn in EpiCentre. Sponsored by the Rams Club. Fans can watch the Tar Heels face Northern Kentucky in basketball.

    SATURDAY

    Belk Bowl 5K, 8:30 a.m. Starting at the Wells Fargo Atrium on South Tryon Street. It’s a 3.1-mile run and walk, benefiting the Levine Children’s Hospital. Enter at The Belk Bowl 5K website.

    FanFest, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mint and Stonewall streets. Belk Bowl Drum Line and Pep Squad, 11:20 a.m. University of Cincinnati cheerleaders, 11:30 a.m. North Carolina cheerleaders, noon. Mascot Challenge, 12:30 p.m. Blake Shelton concert, 1:30 p.m.

    UNC Victory Walk, 1 p.m. Fans will gather at 12:30 p.m. at the Westin Hotel on Stonewall Street and then walk to the stadium at 1 p.m.

    Belk Bowl kickoff, 3:20 p.m. Bank of America Stadium.

    ROAD CLOSURES

    Road closures will begin at 9 a.m. Friday and end late Saturday night. South Mint Street will be closed between Morehead Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Graham Street will be closed between Mint Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. And Stonewall Street will be closed between Mint and Church streets.



Charlotte’s uptown will turn into a college town for the next two days, amid a number of parties, pep rallies and other activities surrounding Saturday’s 12th annual Belk Bowl.

The reason for the festivities is the game, matching North Carolina of the ACC against Cincinnati of the American Athletic Conference. Kickoff is 3:20 p.m. Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.

But the Charlotte Sports Foundation and Belk, the game’s organizers, have stepped up their efforts again this year to make the Belk Bowl a reason for a two-day uptown party.

“We heard that the city really gets behind the game and makes it a big event,” said University of Cincinnati wide receiver Tim Helton.

The idea, game organizers say, is to give fans ways to enjoy the bowl experience, even if they’re not planning to attend the game.

The first Belk Bowl, in 2002, featured a pair of teams – Virginia and West Virginia – whose fans flocked into Charlotte, created a quick sellout of the game and took over the uptown area for a weekend.

Some years, however, the game has featured teams that don’t bring as many fans. So Belk Bowl organizers, led by Charlotte Sports Foundation executive director Will Webb, have tried to build local interest with a variety of activities.

Friday will feature a battle of the marching bands and a four-hour party at the EpiCentre.

Saturday starts with a 5-kilometer race and includes the FanFest, featuring interactive games, pep rallies and even a competition between mascots.

The highlight of FanFest is an annual concert, featuring a big-name act. Two years ago, it was the rock group Daughtry. Last year, it was seven-time Grammy Award winning Lady Antebellum.

And this year, reigning Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year Blake Shelton will be in concert. Shelton’s popularity has spread beyond country music, with his role as a judge in the NBC reality music show “The Voice.”

Good weather is forecast for the events.

Dry conditions and daytime highs in the mid-50s are expected Friday and Saturday. Rain is predicted to move into the area later Saturday, but not until after the game ends, forecasters say.

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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