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South Florida Football Fans Join Visitors For Pre-Super Bowl Festivities

There were lots of Miami Dolphins hats and University of Miami T-shirts floating around the Miami Beach Convention Center for the Super Bowl Experience event, which started this weekend and runs through next Saturday.

But South Florida football fans also showed love for the two teams competing in the big game Feb. 2 at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

Locals are taking part in the festivities ahead of the 54th annual Super Bowl, joining thousands of visitors expected to pour into South Florida for the contest between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

The convention center was filled with photo opportunities, like headless mannequins wearing uniforms from different football teams, so fans could climb on them and look like they themselves were in the game. People also waited up to two hours to pose with the Vince Lombardi trophy.

There were games where visitors could practice throwing footballs and running 40-yard dashes. They also got autographs from players, including Santana Moss, a University of Miami grad who played 14 seasons in the NFL.

When the 1989 Super Bowl was played here, Nestor Lara of Hialeah Gardens decided that whoever won would become his team. The 49ers clinched it, and then the team won again in Miami in 1995.

“So, we’re back!” he said. “We’re going to win the Super Bowl. That would be the greatest gift for me.”

One of the most popular jerseys at the event was that of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Sebastian de las Casas, who lives in Kendall, chose Mahomes for his “dynasty” fantasy football team, a league where participants keep their players instead of exchanging them each year.

“I have him forever,” de las Casas said.

“He had faith in him coming out of Texas Tech and he took a gamble on him in the first round and it paid off,” his friend Matthew Valeiras added. “I mean, he’s a league champ!”

Valeiras, who lives in South Miami, said he was a “huge Dolphins fan — unfortunately.”

Broward County third grader Thomas Quesada was also sporting a Mahomes jersey. The 8-year-old said he likes Mahomes because he can throw far.

When asked if he’d be rooting for the Chiefs during the Super Bowl, he answered with an emphatic: “Duh!”

Bayfront Park in downtown Miami is also hosting a multi-day event leading up to the game, featuring an AstroTurf field, live music and rock climbing on fake palm trees.