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Saturday’s Belk Bowl schedule: Partying and football

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Tim Adams and friends walked down Stonewall Street late Friday morning, watched dozens of workers assemble the stage where Blake Shelton will perform in concert, and decided they were ready for some partying and football.

The celebration started Friday evening. The football, preceded by some more partying, takes place Saturday.

Adams is among about 15,000 University of Cincinnati fans who are in Charlotte to watch their Bearcats face North Carolina in Saturday’s Belk Bowl game at Bank of America Stadium.

Before the 3:20 p.m. kickoff will be the inaugural Belk Bowl 5K race Saturday morning and FanFest at 11 a.m. outside the stadium. Meteorologists are promising nice weather, with increasing clouds and afternoon temperatures in the mid-50s. A drenching rain is headed for Charlotte but not expected to arrive until late Saturday night.

“This is a pretty good event,” said Adams, who came to Charlotte last year when Cincinnati defeated Duke 48-34 in the Belk Bowl. “We’re looking to have a pretty good time.”

That good time started Friday evening at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza with the two schools’ marching bands competing in a Battle of the Bands. That was followed by the official Belk Bowl party at the EpiCentre, along with a number of smaller gatherings of fans from the two schools.

And while fans from the two schools were arriving in Charlotte, the city was preparing for Saturday’s festival. Crews from Harrisburg-based JHE Production Group spent several hours Friday setting up the stage where Shelton, the reigning Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year, will perform at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Shelton’s performance is the highlight of FanFest, which is open to the public at no charge and takes place at Mint and Graham streets, outside the stadium.

“We anticipate about 30,000 people or more will be here,” said Charlotte Fire Department Capt. Rob Brisley, who helped set up the city’s emergency management command center about 100 yards from the stage. “We’re looking for a good day – a festival, a great concert, and then some good football.”

The command center operates at all Carolina Panthers and major college football games. It is there to help people who might suffer minor injuries, to deal with intoxicated fans, and, as Brisley said, “to make sure people stay safe and have a good time.”

And that’s exactly what fans say they’re planning to do.

Pam Fitzpatrick, who was part of the group with Tim Adams that checked out the FanFest site Friday, said she realizes Cincinnati fans will be outnumbered Saturday by Tar Heel supporters. But she said the Bearcats’ followers will make some noise.

“It’s a seven- or eight-hour trip down here, but we sold 15,000 tickets,” she said. “You’ll hear us.”

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