AMES — The sun was hours from making its morning trek to the horizon and then, high into the sky when fans started queueing at 3:30 a.m. with signs of all shapes, colors and sizes.
At 5 a.m., parking lots began to fill up.
Before 7 a.m. three grass parking lots were full and the other two would be full before 8.
ESPN’s College GameDay was in Ames for the first time ever Saturday for Iowa State’s game against Iowa.
“This is a place we’ve wanted to get to for a long time,” ESPN coordinating producer Drew Gallagher said. “We have a lot of debates in the office and we have a lot of fun with it, and Iowa State’s always been a place we wanted to take the football show to. We brought the basketball show here a couple of years ago, and they filled Hilton and it was one of our best basketball shows ever.”
The grassy area south of Jack Trice Stadium where the stage was set was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with cardinal and gold — and some black and gold.
Signs reigned supreme as the show set the stage for day of college football, while also highlighting the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry.
“Hawkeye is the worst Avenger,” one sign read.
On the other side, “Ames is so Lame even the Mayor left”
And one both sides can agree on:
“I’ve been here for football before, calling a couple games on Thursday night, and one thing that blew me away was the tailgate scene, even on a Thursday, it was incredible,” College GameDay host Rece Davis said. “Now that is Texas, but I can only imagine what’ll be like for the Cy-Hawk game and on a Saturday. I’d like to see a scene similar to what we had at Washington State last year.”
They did. Thousands of fans surrounded the set cheering and booing as the show went on.
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“They’re not used to having us,” Davis said. “We’re always welcomed and treated well at places that become regular stops, but the fans are very used to it. The thing that strikes me about going to a new place is that fans are really proud of their program, their rivalry game, their school ... and they want to show case that.
“This isn’t the fans coming out just to see us, they’re coming out to use our show, which I hope they enjoy and value, to show their pride in their program. When they get the opportunity to do that for the first time, you really get a lot of energy.”