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Panthers fans turn out early in uptown Charlotte for playoff game day tailgating

Rodney Foreman rolled into uptown Charlotte around 7 a.m. Saturday to get things ready for a big tailgate event before the Panthers’ playoff game.

Earlier that morning, he and about 50 other folks from Norwood had checked into the Holiday Inn Charlotte-Center City. Foreman set up the first of what would be several tents spread out across a parking lot on Stonewall Street.

It’s the Norwood group’s favorite tailgating spot for Panthers games.

“This is sacred ground,” said Foreman, 43. “There’s been tears shed and everything, right here.”

The damp morning and prediction of heavy rain that afternoon didn’t matter to Foreman.

“Rain or shine, we’ll be here,” he said. “Just like the mailman.”

There was no question in his mind about the outcome of the game.

“The Panthers will win, that’s a given,” Foreman said. “They own the game. They showed up. They’re ready.”

They were. The Panthers defeated the Arizona Cardinals, 27-16, and advanced to the next round of the NFL playoffs. They will travel either to Seattle or Green Bay next weekend.

Rain? What rain?

Grills sent a swirl of sweet-smelling smoke around parts of uptown. Walkers wearing Panthers shirts stopped on sidewalks to stare at Bank of America Stadium.

In parking lots, tailgaters were busy arranging tents and lining up menus for the day.

Mike Dinius of Gastonia expected a group of 25 to 30 people to stop by his 20-foot tent and customized van.

Sandwiches, snacks and other refreshments were in place and Dinius was thinking about the game, not the weather.

“Rain’s not a factor,” he said. “We’ve been here in thunderstorms. If we play like we played last week, these guys (Arizona) don’t have a chance.”

Phillip Newsom of Statesville got to a parking lot at Third and Poplar streets well ahead of about 15 of his friends. By around 9:30 a.m., he’d gotten a 10-by10 tent in place and a grill ready to cook burgers, brats and ribs.

Like other Panthers fans, he didn’t give rain a second thought.

“I’m not concerned about rain,” said Newsom, 44. “I’m just happy to be here. Panthers pride! Rain won’t dampen my spirits.”

Bron Dodds of Charlotte and about a dozen friends got down to business after they got organized.

First, there were Bloody Marys and a wings appetizer with celery and ranch dressing.

“We also have a select assortment of local craft beer,” said Dodds, 43.

His philosophy about the weather: “The more rain, the more tailgating – because we’re prepared,” Dodds said.

Looking ahead to game time, he said, “I’d like the Panthers to take care of business today. We’re due.”

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