Super Bowl 53: While Atlanta sleeps, the party goes on

Super Bowl action is 24/7 for revelers and those keeping the fun going

The city that never sleeps. New York might claim that moniker, but in these days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, Atlanta is a contender for the title.

The host city for Super Bowl LIII is buzzing around the clock, and the volume is only increasing as the big day draws near. NFL-sanctioned events are happening everywhere — from the hot zone in and around Centennial Olympic Park up north to Cobb Galleria Centre, the venue for Saturday's fundraiser food fest Taste of the NFL. Corporate sponsors are likewise doing their own hosting, wowing VIPs with parties that promise famous faces among pro football players past and present, musicians, actors and other A-listers, plus lots of food and booze.

Some 150 people were lucky enough to snag a $1,250 seat at the Culinary Kickoff held Thursday night at Ventanas on Baker Street. The over-the-top rooftop event, sponsored by the Culinary Institute of America, featured a cocktail reception followed by a four-course dinner prepared by big-name chefs Michael Mina, Charlie Palmer, Adam Sobel, Scott Roman and local culinarian Lasheeda Perry of the Four Seasons.

After brushing shoulders with the emcees, retired football greats Charles Woodson and Marshall Faulk, revelers shed a few calories during the after-party, kicking up their heels during a live performance by hip-hop icon Big Boi.

When the clock struck midnight and Thursday became Friday, traffic on Marietta Street near the CNN Center was at a slow crawl.

A cop shouted at a kid on a scooter zipping around cars. “My man, get off the street!”

Cars moved at worse than a snail's pace when concertgoers began filing out of State Farm Arena, having been energized by Atlanta-based rapper-actor Ludacris, Young Jeezy, T.I. and other musicians. Some stopped to watch a pair of street performers bang furiously on pots, pans and plastic buckets, sounding like high school marching band drummers gone rogue.

It was past bedtime for Hudson Holly. The 11-year-old hip-hop aficionado had traveled with his father, Shawn Holly, from Greenville, South Carolina, to attend the concert. Father and son were high-tailing it back to their hotel in Duluth for a few hours of shut-eye before driving Hudson to school Friday morning. “I have to get him to school before 11 a.m. so he’s not considered absent, only tardy,” Shawn Holly said.

Others weren’t quite ready to call it a day.

There was a line out the door at the Waffle House across the street from Centennial Olympic Park.

At the Hotel Clermont on the other side of town, the party was just getting started. From 2 to 5 a.m. Friday, Ludacris hosted a private event at the happening Midtown hotel. A few hundred guests like Robert Dozier of Washington, D.C., packed a thumping rooftop bar, then headed downstairs to Tiny Lou's restaurant, where chicken and waffles, mac and cheese, braised greens and cornbread awaited.

“They did a good job of getting the city ready for the Super Bowl,” said Dozier, who visits Atlanta a couple of times a month for his job as a government contractor.

Where was he headed after calling it quits at the Hotel Clermont? “Tonight is done,” he said. “There is no after-party that starts at 5 a.m.”

Luda’s invite-only shindig will gear up again late night Friday, and once more in Saturday’s witching hours.

As revelers drink up on the nonstop Super Bowl action, folks behind the scenes are ready 24/7 to pull off their portion of the show.

"This is hour 16 of my day," said Atlanta Beverage account manager Clay Darity. It was 11:30 p.m. Thursday as he stood under streetlights among a cluster of trailers stocked with Anheuser-Busch products. The local beverage distributor has trailers staged in a couple of strategic spots downtown, with folks ready to run brewskis to nearby bars in need of restocking.

When the final whistle blows on Super Bowl LIII, employees at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will have a cleanup job ahead of them as they toss mounds of empty cups, food containers and dirty napkins into the trash. But for folks like Kholoma Murray, the undertaking is even more massive than tidying a stadium. An equipment operator for the city of Atlanta, Murray is part of the team responsible for keeping downtown looking spick and span.

The refuse team works in 12-hour shifts, Murray said as he used a grabber to pick up debris. Murray has the late night shift, which means he’ll be walking the streets from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. from now until Feb. 4.

As Murray crossed Baker Street, he barely slowed his brisk gait to snap up some trash then drop it into the can on the curb.

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