FARMINGTON – As the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers prepare to take the field for Sunday's Super Bowl, many local businesses are making preparations of their own to attract customers.
Housed in the Bowlero Lanes bowling alley, Cracker's Sports Bar, 3704 E. Main St. in Farmington, is getting ready for its annual Super Bowl party.
Bar manager Megan Clifton said the sports bar's Super Bowl party has already sold out — 106 tickets at $35 apiece were snapped up by patrons in three weeks. Clifton said people looking for a festive and fun place to watch the game can still buy walk-in tickets at $45 starting at 1 p.m. on game day.
"It's always really fun, and everyone seems to enjoy it," Clifton said.
Clifton sat on the floor of the bar on Thursday surrounded by piles of T-shirts, ball caps, bottle openers and other give-away items that she was busy assembling into goodie bags for guests on Sunday.
For the party, Cracker's employees empty the bar of its tables and chairs, and bring in picnic tables covered in tablecloths emblazoned with Broncos blue and orange.
On game day, Cracker's owner Chad Franks will be overseeing the barbecue grills outside, where brisket, ribs, brats, chicken and Andouille sausages will be grilled.
"We, by far, try to make this the best party in town, hands down, for the Super Bowl each year," Franks said.
Cracker's has held a Super Bowl party for about 20 years, he said, and this year's party will reach new height in one respect — $10,000 worth of prizes given to patrons at the party throughout the day. Prizes include three flat-screen TVs, a cruiser bike, trips to Hawaii and Mexico, a Coors Light fire pit, a Miller Lite barbecue grill and José Cuervo beach umbrellas.
"Everybody will walk out with something," Clifton said.
One party regular is Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein, a Broncos season ticket holder and longtime fan, who has held court at the sports bar for its annual football bash for the last six years.
Eckstein said he already has a table reserved this Sunday for his party of 15 family members and friends to take in the game.
"What I like about Cracker's is that for $35, it's all you can eat, you don't have to clean up a mess — they do that for you — and you can go with friends and family and have a great time," Eckstein said. "They also have lots of door prizes. You never come out a loser. They're friendly, they're fun and family friendly."
Eckstein said one year he won a Kindle and a Cracker's jacket.
Even local stores were capitalizing on Sunday's game to sell products for football fans.
Right inside the doors of the Target on East Main Street stood racks of shirts, jerseys and hoodies in Broncos orange and blue for sale.
Store manager Michelle Albright said the store will be open on Sunday. Fans who want to snap up some deals on Super Bowl-related merchandise like jerseys and T-shirts or finger foods will have plenty to choose from at the store.
"We've increased our food area with snack items like guacamole dip and other finger foods for all your Super Bowl entertainment needs," Albright said.
The box store is running a sale on flat-screen TVs until Saturday for anyone throwing a game-day party but lacking a big enough screen TV to do it. One popular TV at the store was a 50-inch Samsung LED Smart TV for $579.99, a savings of $270 from its regular price of $849.99.
Albright said the store's TV section will likely be tuned to the game on Sunday, and a TV in the employee break room will show the game while a table of snacks will be provided.
But some patrons of the store may arrive during game time on Sunday to get some shopping done without any risk of heavy traffic, she said.
Erica Valdez , a Head Start teacher in Dulce, came into Target on Thursday dressed from head to toe in jersey and tights featuring a Panthers logo and awash in the team's signature "process blue." She and her husband came in to buy a gift for their 9-year-old son, whose birthday party will be celebrated with the family Super Bowl party at home on Sunday.
"We'll have a lot of family over, about 20 of us," Valdez said. "We'll have hot wings and all kinds of food. But we'll start the day at the gym for a basketball party for Michael and then move over to the house for the game at 4:30."
Valdez, who said she is probably the only Panthers fan in her family, predicted the Panthers will win by 30 points.
"It'll be a butt-whoopin'," she said.
For Eckstein, the only dilemma on Sunday will be trying to decide which of his Bronco jerseys to wear to the party. Eckstein was still mulling that decision on Thursday, as he was torn between C.J. Anderson's No. 22 or Peyton Manning's No. 18.
"I'll probably wear my C.J. Anderson jersey," Eckstein said. "(Anderson's) been doing good, especially toward the end of the season. I might go with my Manning jersey. I just don't know."
Eckstein predicted a close game on Sunday with the Broncos lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating Carolina 23-21.
"It's going to be a close one," Eckstein said.
James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.