Cooler fall temperatures. People wearing blue UK memorabilia and sitting in lawn chairs near Memorial Coliseum. That can mean only one thing: Fans lined up for tickets to Kentucky basketball's Big Blue Madness.
But UK instructed fans not to begin lining up until 7 a.m. Wednesday. In case anyone missed the message, signs stuck in the grass outside the Coliseum read: "No set-up/forming lines until 9/28."
So who were these people across College Avenue from the Coliseum on Tuesday?
"We're not technically here," fan Dallas Hoskins, 46, said with a wry grin.
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"It's a mirage," Diana McDonald, 62, added.
Hoskins and McDonald were part of a group of UK fans who arrived Monday afternoon. By late Tuesday morning, 10 fans were in place for UK's Saturday morning distribution of Madness tickets.
Being first in line, a place of distinction for many UK fans for years, did not inspire the early arrivals. They wanted to renew acquaintances and celebrate the soon return of basketball — and simply couldn't wait to again be part of the Madness Catmosphere.
"Kentucky basketball's always been a family tradition," said John Riley, 36, who arrived with friend Jimmy Turner on Tuesday morning. "We've been camping out since '96."
Practical considerations also played into the early arrivals.
Marsha Poe, 53, coveted the parking spot near the corner of Euclid and College avenues. "So we don't have to haul (camping equipment) from two blocks away," she said in reference to the UK-approved beginning of camping out for tickets. Plus, if the night air gets too cool, the early arrivals can sleep in their cars.
Riley said he would have to feed $9 into the parking meter each day. "It's worth it to have that spot," he said.
Although they ignored the date set by UK to start the camp-out, the fans said they observed the school's request to not engage the players in conversation.
"We wave at them," Poe said.
Poe added that she came upon Darius Miller at McDonald's on Monday evening. "He's one of the friendlier guys," she said.
When asked what they expected from the Kentucky team in 2011-12, the fans aimed high.
"Championship, nothing less," Hoskins said.
Tommy Mullins, 27, added, "Final Four, at least."
Poe did not set a tangible goal.
"I don't care," she said. "Have a lot of fun and (the players) not be a bunch of hoodlums."
Poe objected to the view of UK fans as demanding in an unrealistic way.
"Some of the media," she said, gesturing quotation marks with her fingers, "and some of the fans put out the notion it has to be a championship. I survived (Billy) Gillispie."
Added McDonald, "We're not fanatics."
When it was noted that being outside Memorial Coliseum for four days waiting for free Madness tickets might hurt the not-fanatics argument, the fans laughed.
"I'll take the fanatic label," Poe said. "But I'm not one of those oh-my-god-we-lost-to-Louisville fans."
Clark a no-show
Madness celeb "Wildcat" Wally Clark will not participate in the camp-out for tickets or Big Blue Madness this year.
Clark said Tuesday he will be preparing for a move to Arizona next month to live with family.
"It's something that bothers me a lot," said Clark, who had been first in line for Madness tickets several times. One year, he camped out for 39 days to make sure he was first in line.
"I'll still be rooting for Kentucky," he said.