HOUSTON (Reuters) - Despite the absence of tailgating, there was no shortage of partying for Sunday's Super Bowl, as what has grown to become a virtual U.S. national holiday was set to kick off at Houston's NRG Stadium.
Heavy security surrounding the suburban Houston site for the NFL title clash between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons shut the door on tailgating as fans had to park remotely and ride buses to the 73,000-seat stadium.
But ticket holders were already in full party mode after a dizzying weekend of high-energy fun in the city centre by an estimated 140,000 out-of-town visitors that poured in and those able to make it to the private parties dotted around the Texas oil capital.
There was something for everyone, from the NFL Experience that catered to family fun, to booming dance clubs.
A-listers, movie stars, and business titans filled VIP parties across the city, from the Maxim bash to the Taste of the NFL, which benefits the homeless, to the exclusive Bootsy Bellows soiree in a private club tucked in a corner of downtown.
Fergie, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Cee-Lo Green and Busta Rhymes, actor Jon Hamm and Ludacris were spotted among party-goers and even Patriots owner Robert Kraft rocked out on stage with rapper Flo Rida on at the Fanatics Super Bowl party.
Taylor Swift dazzled a packed crowd at Club Nomadic for the DirecTV bash.
Some $350 million was expected to pour into the city's economy.
Tickets prices just before kickoff on the online resale market were ranging from $2,700 apiece to over $5,000, and one needed more money, of course, to keep the party vibe going helped by 115 concession stands in the stadium.
"It's expensive! These beers are $15 a piece, I paid nine dollars for a pretzel!" joked Jon Ostrowski, a Pats fan who made the trip from Atlanta with a childhood friend from Connecticut.
Larry Anderson, a farmer and Patriots fan from Omaha, Nebraska, was spending his pre-game in the "Bud Light Lounge."
"I'm super excited to be here," said Anderson, who came with his son. "We'll probably drink a lot and yell a lot."
The Super Bowl party, of course, stretches beyond Houston.
Americans will consume more food on Sunday on any other day of year except Thanksgiving, going through 1.3 billion chicken wings and wash them down with 325 million gallons of beer.
Additional reporting by Liz Hampton and Ernest Scheyder