ATLANTA — The party has already started in Atlanta.
At least if you’re a West Virginia University football fan.
On Saturday, the Mountaineers will meet No. 2 Alabama here in the Georgia Dome. The Mountaineers are heavy underdogs in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game, which will be televised on ABC at 3:30 p.m.
Yet that hasn’t stopped many West Virginia fans from enjoying themselves. A few hit the Georgia Dome early for Thursday’s first Kickoff game between Ole Miss and Boise State. More, though, started the season with a Thursday night event at Laseter’s Tavern, which provided food and drink specials and a two-piece band called “Wes and Lance,” a favorite of in-Atlanta Mountaineer fans. The tavern is located just a couple miles from the Renaissance Waverly, WVU’s team hotel.
Laseter’s has become known as the foremost Mountaineer bar in Atlanta.
“We’re excited for the season, ready to shock the nation,” said Steve Ware, an Atlanta resident who grew up in Charleston “People say I’m crazy, but we’re going 9-3.”
In the preseason media poll, the Mountaineers were picked eighth in the 10-team Big 12 Conference. Alabama is ranked second in the nation in the major college football preseason polls.
“[Saturday] afternoon could be one of the greatest upsets in college football,” said Mickey Plumley, a Mount Hope native who played on WVU’s 1969 Peach Bowl-winning team.
St. Albans native Alison Garland said she was at the 2006 Sugar Bowl in Atlanta, when WVU upset heavily favored Georgia. “We have a good record in the [Georgia] Dome,” said Garland, who said she was “super excited” for Saturday’s game.
On Friday, a bigger party is expected as more WVU fans file into town. Organizers here are calling their setup “The Party of the Year.” It’s a gathering at the Park Tavern that gets fans a full open bar, multiple food stations, which will be serving a wide variety of treats, as well as the sounds of party band “Haywire.” Park Tavern is generally considered the best party venue in Atlanta.
Bill Toothman, one of the organizers, said WVU has access to the entire Park Tavern facility for that shindig, both inside and out. He also said the Mountaineer Marching Band will be there.
“The response has picked up dramatically in the last couple of weeks,” Toothman said. “We’ll have around 3,000 fans between the events. It’s a party.”
The options will be many for WVU fans here. A WVU VIP event is taking place at the Park Tavern prior to the 7 p.m. main event. On game day, an “official WVU Madness Party” will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Georgia World Congress Center, immediately adjacent to the Georgia Dome. That will feature the Kurt Thomas band (a recent opening act for Zac Brown) and will go until 3 p.m. That’s in addition to the “official Chick-fil-A fanfest.”
The Mountaineer Marching Band will appear at the WVU fanfest and the football team will conduct its pregame walkthrough there.
In addition, “Fan Days at the World of Coca-Cola” will offer followers $3 tickets to the soda manufacturing facility. The new College Football Hall of Fame is open.
The partying doesn’t seem to end — even after the game. On Sunday, Turner Field will hold a “WVU Day” for its 5 p.m. baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. A ticket allows one to sit with other Mountaineer fans and have in-and-out access to the 755 Club.
Toothman said around 300 tickets have been sold to that.
Reach Mitch Vingle at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-4827 or follow @MitchVingle on Twitter.