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Dedicated fans brave chilly wind for Championship Beach Bash

CLEARWATER — The biting wind over Clearwater Memorial Causeway battered car flags of both creeds: crimson red for the Crimson Tide and orange for the Tigers.

Devout fans of the University of Alabama and Clemson University made a pilgrimage to sub-tropical Tampa Bay to witness the sweetest of college football showdowns — a championship rematch.

But before the big, tense day, they came Sunday to Clearwater Beach's Pier 60 for a relaxed afternoon of college marching band shows, games and crafts, and sports celebrities playing flag football on renowned sugar sand.

They expected humidity and warm breezes at the Championship Beach Bash. Instead they got frigid gusts of 20 to 30 mph. The low in Tampa was 34 degrees.

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos warmly greeted the crowd and thanked them for braving the wintry weather.

"I reminded them that it's 40 below 100," he joked.

So they bundled up: Alabama fans donned sweatshirts and scarves and gloves and tutus on toddlers, and cheerleader getups on miniature pigs. Tiger fans wore Clemson vests, hoodies and caps.

Mike Blomeyer, who hails from Denver, didn't have a favorite: he sported a Clemson jersey and Alabama pajama pants.

"These pajamas I thought would be warmer," said Blomeyer, 46. "I would love it if it was warmer."

A few young ones braved the bungee jump stations. No one dared the tall, open inflatable slide. Most huddled with plastic cups of beer — or Dunkin' Donuts coffee.

The crowd, which topped over 1,000 throughout the day, milled around until the college marching bands showed. Some were waiting for comedian Cedric the Entertainer and former Florida Gators quarterback-turned football analyst Jesse Palmer to coach the flag football game played by sports journalists and commentators.

Cedric called plays for Team Clearwater. Palmer rallied behind Team St. Petersburg. Cedric's team prevailed, 33-16.

"I told them, 'Go out there and do what you do. It's sand. Have fun. And that's what they did,' " Cedric said after receiving the trophy.

As for the weather, "I'm not expecting this at all. It's Florida man," he said. "I had to go shopping and buy this hoodie."

Dedicated fans brave chilly wind for Championship Beach Bash 01/08/17 [Last modified: Monday, January 9, 2017 11:28am]
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