Downtown Tempe was filled with activity Tuesday afternoon as liquor distributors busily delivered boxes of alcohol to bars and restaurants on Mill Avenue and dozens of football fans milled around enjoying the warm weather.
The Minnesota Golden Gopher faithful were out in full force, walking Mill in their yellow shirts.
The University of Minnesota will take on the University of Kansas in the Insight Bowl today. More than 100,000 are expected to be on Mill on New Year's Eve to take in the game and the Insight Fiesta Bowl Block Party that follows it.
John Nelson, a dentist from Austin, Minn., is spending six days in the state visiting the Grand Canyon, hopping on the Metro light rail and partying as much as possible in between.
"We've come to watch football and drink beer, or scotch," said Nelson, wearing a Brew's Crew yellow shirt with "Gopher Nation Tailgating Division" on the back.
His friend, Sanford Brown, said the group was doing "cultural" things during the day and enjoying their alcoholic beverages at night.
The Jayhawks were represented on Mill, too.
Steve and Debbie Giebler of Great Bend, Kan., had been staying in Tempe since Monday and were enjoying their first visit to the Valley. The Gieblers couldn't say enough about the fabulous weather and friendly people.
Duane Graber of Kansas City, Mo., sported his Jayhawks gear while eating at Fatburger with two friends. He had been staying in Scottsdale since Saturday, enjoying the sunshine and having fun on the light rail.
"I love it," Graber said. "It seems healthier out here. It seems like you should be outside biking or hiking."
While the fans took in the scene, restaurant and bar owners were busy getting everything ready for the crazy night ahead.
Jake Guzman, general manager of The Library Bar and Grill and a board member of the Mill Avenue Coalition, said the group met earlier this month to talk about street closures, parking and the entertainment.
Since many Arizona State University students - including most of his labor pool - returned home Dec. 17 for vacation, Guzman had to hire eight new servers and bartenders. The new employees will join the 30 or so Library staff members working Wednesday.
About $10,000 worth of liquor had to be delivered Tuesday because many downtown streets are closed Wednesday. Storage and the holidays are tricky issues to deal with, making planning even more important, Guzman said.
"We have to guess what they want to drink," said Guzman, referring to the out-of-town football fans. "So much strategy goes into it. We don't know what to expect with the light rail and the economy."
Chad Wilford, owner and general manager of Fat Tuesday, had to get a city permit to double the square footage of an extended patio, something he does at least three times a year. He hired 10 extra servers and bartenders and is bringing in extra security.
Wilford is expecting to sell as much liquor today as he would in a typical week.
"We're expecting to be shoulder to shoulder all day and all night," Wilford said. "It's the busiest day of the year, and we're looking forward to having a great night."
Tempe police spokesman Sgt. Steve Carbajal said his department is expecting at least 100,000 people. Officers in uniform and in plainclothes will be everywhere on Mill making sure everyone is safe, he said.
"This is nothing new to Tempe. We've done all the big games. We know what's involved in securing the event," Carbajal said.
Police are reminding those who attend the block party that pets, weapons, backpacks, tote bags, coolers and food or beverages are not permitted at the event. Sealed water bottles are allowed.