You can hear the National Championship Fanfest before you ever get a glimpse of the flashing lights, huge video screens and brightly colored banners.
It’s just a ride up the escalator to second floor of the Tampa Convention Center and then a step into the cavernous hall where your instantly blasted by the musical rhythms coming from the Dance Off stage.
That’s where Penny Brown and her daughter, a Clemson graduate, had just competed for prizes. Dressed in bright orange Clemson jerseys, there was no mistaking which team they came to Tampa to cheer on.
“People are just amazing here,” Brown said. “We went down the Riverwalk and people are willing to talk to you and say “Go Tigers” and even the Alabama fans.”
Next to the dance stage, vendors are passing out free food samples, beyond that is a chance to pose with the Heisman Trophy and have your photo taken.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a huge simulated football field set up where children can try their skills tackling dummies and running obstacle courses. Bucs cheerleaders were available for photos and teaching cheers.
There’s a Lego challenge for Alabama versus Clemson fans and plenty of skill tests for adults.
Alabama fan Tracy Daidone grew up in the Tuscaloosa area, but now lives in Tampa. The Air Force veteran didn’t get to attend the Championship Bowl Game between Alabama and Clemson last year in Arizona.
“This year is like Christmas. I love it,” Daidone said. “I wanted to see Bama come be in my hometown where I can enjoy my people, in my town, and see my game. Hopefully, my team is victorious at the end of 60 minutes. It’s a replay of last year, hopefully exactly a replay of last year where we win."
This is the first Fanfest he’s attended and said his expectations are high.
“Everything around here is so hyped up and huge. It’s incredible. I feel the electricity in the air around Tampa right now,” Daidone said.
He’s excited for his team but also for Tampa, “Keep it up, this is what Tampa needs. We need to be hosting these huge events.”
Although he’s enjoying the surrounding events, Daidone said he plans to watch the game from the comfort of his own home with plenty of friends and family.