Forecasts for Tuesday’s Belk Bowl between Georgia and Louisville called for a miserable night of windy, misty cold, with temperatures in the low 30s.
But Louisville fans couldn’t have been happier, noting that it was nine degrees colder back in their hometown. By comparison, Charlotte was like the beach, said Chuck Jetton of Louisville, Ky., who is in town with his wife, Elaine.
“We’re used to the cold. It’s Georgia that needs to worry,” said Chuck Jetton, as he stood among other fans at the Belk Bowl FanFest on Tuesday outside Bank of America Stadium.
“They’re not used to this. Our best advice to them is to sit down and keep quiet during the game. That way, they can stay warm. Or even better, go back home. Nothing going to be happening on the Georgia side of the field anyway.”
Fat chance, countered Georgia “super fan” Bob Cowles of Marietta, Ga.
“I’ve been to every game, home and away, since 1999, with the exception of three, and we can play no matter how cold it is,” said Cowles, wearing a pair of Georgia Bulldogs bright red overalls. “We’re going to prove it on the field.”
No. 20 Louisville went into the game as the projected loser against No. 13 Georgia, but Cardinals fans like Jetton said the team has a history of winning when forced to play bowl games in frigid temperatures. From that perspective, he said Charlotte promised big things.
The promise did not hold up, however, as Georgia took control early on its way to a 37-14 victory.
Fans of both teams gathered by the thousands Tuesday afternoon for the FanFest, an event outside the stadium that combined entertainment with family-friendly activities. The highlight was a 4 p.m. performance by country singer Miranda Lambert.
Last year’s Belk Bowl – which featured North Carolina and Cincinnati – attracted about 45,000 people to uptown, filling hotels and restaurants at a time of the month when uptown spending tends to slump.
As a result of the weather Tuesday, Belk Bowl shirt sellers at FanFest were doing a much better business than the cold beer vendors, who stood by with their hands in their pockets.
As Jetton suspected, it was the Georgia fans who seemed to be wearing the most clothes.
Bulldogs fans Randy and Lori Thompson, of Cochran, Ga., admitted they were surprised at how cold it got in the hours leading up to the game. The family arrived in Charlotte on Sunday, when temperatures were 25 degrees higher.
“Foot warmers,” Randy Thompson said, as if revealing a family secret. “We’re going to be at the game with plenty of those foot warmers from Walmart. And blankets, and coats, and gloves and sweatshirts and anything else we can bring.”
This marked the couple’s first trip to Charlotte, and Lori Thompson said they had fallen in love with the city. He liked the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and she liked the EpiCentre and the convenience of everything being within walking distance of their uptown hotel.
The unexpected charm of uptown Charlotte seemed to be the one thing on which fans of the two opposing teams could agree.
Chuck Jetton admitted he was at first disappointed that Louisville was playing in Charlotte, rather than some place like Orlando, Fla., where the team played in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl.
“I had low expectations. It would be cold. There would be no Disney World and so on,” Jetton said. “But everything in Orlando was a long drive. Here, our car has been in the parking lot of the hotel since we arrived, and we’ve walked to everything. It’s great here.”