JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of Georgia and Florida college football fans have taken over downtown Jacksonville, closely watched over by hundreds of Jacksonville police and security guards.
The Jacksonville Landing, often a ghost town on a Friday night, was crowded, with gates controlling the entrances and exits, signs listing prohibited items and security sweeps.
Friday marked two months since two people were killed in the Aug. 26 mass shooting at a Madden NFL event at the Landing, so people found it reassuring that there was a police officer just about everywhere you turned.
The Landing has put up gates and is charging a $10 cover. Children 12 and younger accompanied by an adult will be free. No backpacks, coolers, chairs, outside food and drink, luggage and oversized bags, weapons/firearms, masks, fireworks, bottles and cans, or flying objects are allowed on the Landing’s property. No Halloween costume masks or anything that covers the face will be allowed. The Landing will allow small bags including clutches, satchels, drawstring bags and anything under 12 inches by 12 inches on to the property.
The Sideline Safety Zone returned to the first-floor at The Landing, located by the escalators inside the mall, for anyone who needs assistance during the event. There will be access to directions,
first aid and medical support, water, telephone service, cellphone charges, snacks, coffee, maps, and other information. The zone was open from 8 p.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday, and from noon Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday.
Safety is one thing Bulldog and Gator fans agree on.
"We really don’t mind if we’re checked or anything like that," Michelle Smith said. "I think it’s the safety issue. That’s No. 1, for sure."
For years, organizers have discouraged the use of the World's Largest Cocktail Party nickname for the annual rivalry game, but alcohol was flowing at the Landing, as well as at RV City, where there was plenty of food, drinks and lots of socializing.
"This is our first time here ever and just seeing this is amazing," David Raffensberger said. "What a great time."
Raffensberger and his wife are impressed to see so many out and thankful for the security.