Charlottes uptown will turn into a college town for the next two days, amid a number of parties, pep rallies and other activities surrounding Saturdays 12th annual Belk Bowl.
The reason for the festivities is the game, matching North Carolina of the ACC against Cincinnati of the American Athletic Conference. Kickoff is 3:20 p.m. Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.
But the Charlotte Sports Foundation and Belk, the games organizers, have stepped up their efforts again this year to make the Belk Bowl a reason for a two-day uptown party.
We heard that the city really gets behind the game and makes it a big event, said University of Cincinnati wide receiver Tim Helton.
The idea, game organizers say, is to give fans ways to enjoy the bowl experience, even if theyre not planning to attend the game.
The first Belk Bowl, in 2002, featured a pair of teams Virginia and West Virginia whose fans flocked into Charlotte, created a quick sellout of the game and took over the uptown area for a weekend.
Some years, however, the game has featured teams that dont bring as many fans. So Belk Bowl organizers, led by Charlotte Sports Foundation executive director Will Webb, have tried to build local interest with a variety of activities.
Friday will feature a battle of the marching bands and a four-hour party at the EpiCentre.
Saturday starts with a 5-kilometer race and includes the FanFest, featuring interactive games, pep rallies and even a competition between mascots.
The highlight of FanFest is an annual concert, featuring a big-name act. Two years ago, it was the rock group Daughtry. Last year, it was seven-time Grammy Award winning Lady Antebellum.
And this year, reigning Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year Blake Shelton will be in concert. Sheltons popularity has spread beyond country music, with his role as a judge in the NBC reality music show The Voice.
Good weather is forecast for the events.
Dry conditions and daytime highs in the mid-50s are expected Friday and Saturday. Rain is predicted to move into the area later Saturday, but not until after the game ends, forecasters say.
Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle