Saturday afternoon and evening saw thousands of purple-clad fans descend on downtown Orlando for the second annual Kickoff Week Pub Crawl. There was a live band, games, lots of Orlando City merchandise on offer, and a few neat extras.
The first was a chance to see the Copa America cup up close and personal. The Cup was on display for the first few hours of the Pub Crawl near the Harry Buffalo bar on Church Street. It was part of the effort to build awareness and excitement for the Centennial edition of the Copa America, which will be played in the USA this summer, with several matches happening in Orlando in early June.
The Pub Crawl spanned three areas or venues of downtown, moving between some of the City Pub location in the area. It started on Church Street at Harry Buffalo's and the Cheyenne Saloon, then moved over to the Elixir bar, and finally finished on Wall Street Plaza.
At Elixir, Phil Rawlins and his wife Kay put in the kind of low-key appearance that is a hallmark of their style. They didn't get up where they could be seen and give speeches, they just mingled with the crowd and soaked in the energy and excitement of being fans. When you talk with either of them, it's clear they are involved with the sport because they love it. And it's that passion which has helped them build such a loyal fan base for the club so quickly.
When the party got to Wall Street Plaza, things began heating up. There was a buzz and excitement in the air that didn't have anything to do with the free alcohol or the dancealong/singalong mix the DJ was pumping out of the speakers. Everyone was anticipating a big moment, and Len Santiago provided it just a little after 7:00 pm, when he introduced Antonio Nocerino to the crowd.
All in all it was a very fun night. Everyone was excited for the season and I ran into a few old friends as well as meeting some new fans of the blog, such as the lovely Morris and Floyd couples, who were there ready for the weekend. And the Floyds have two great reasons to be proud this weekend. First, their son is in the U8 program with the Orlando City Academy and is already breaking ankles on the pitch with his slick skills. And the second is that their budding soccer star gets to be part of the team entrance today, walking out of the tunnel with one of the Orlando City team members. Congratulations! That's pretty awesome!