John and Gerri Miracle drove from Florence and were all set up to start tailgating at Commonwealth Stadium by 8:30 Saturday morning, almost four hours before the University of Kentucky kicked off its 2014 football season.
"We came a little early, kind of anticipating there might be some problems because of all the construction," John Miracle said. "But we didn't have any trouble at all."
"If there was any traffic," Gerri Miracle added, "we beat it."
The Miracles were amply rewarded for their early arrival, as the Wildcats manhandled UT-Martin 59-14. It was the first time UK had opened its football season at home since 2007.
Two questions going into Saturday were whether the Cats could bounce back from two straight 2-10 seasons, and whether UK fans would be turned off by having to deal with renovation work now underway at Commonwealth. A $120 million project to upgrade the stadium is continuing during this season, with the goal of completing renovations before the 2015 season.
UK performed well, although time will tell whether the young team is prepared to put together a breakout season.
Attendance was 50,398 on Saturday, and the fans seemed determined not to let inconveniences associated with the stadium construction work put a crimp in their celebrating. UK Police Chief Joe Monroe said things went smoothly overall.
"We didn't have a full house, but lots of people arrived early and traffic seemed to flow very smoothly," Monroe said. "We had some minor confusion where people weren't paying attention to the changes we had in place.
"We'll tweak a few things for next weekend, but overall it looked pretty good."
John Lovell of Berea was settled into his customary spot in the lot just west of the stadium well before 9 a.m., waiting for his brother to arrive so the party could get started.
"We've been parking here for 30 years, I guess," Lovell said. "We came a little early to kind of get a feel for how things were going to be. We knew it was going to be a little different this year."
By 10 a.m., Steven and Carole Haydon of Lexington and a group of their friends already had a party tent set up on the lot just south of the stadium. A TV set was on, food and drink had been prepared, and more people were expected shortly.
"There'll probably be 30 or 40 people in all." Steve Haydon said. "We're here to just stake out a place."
Haydon said members of the true blue group usually are among the first to arrive at Commonwealth for home games, and among the last to leave afterward.
He said he doubts that the stadium renovation will have much effect on fan turnout. But he said having two main gates on the south side of the stadium closed for the season — Gates 10 and 11 — could make it harder for fans getting in and out. Even so, he predicted, fans will make whatever adjustments are necessary to see their Cats play.
"We'll be OK," he said, adding that Kentucky fans have fun "win or lose."
Charlie Calvert, who drove to the game from Maysville, said he wasn't bothered by the construction, or new rules about parking and traffic flow around the stadium this year.
"To quote Barney Fife: 'Rule Number One is ignore all rules,'" he quipped.
Diana Lasley and Dawn Gonzales of Lexington were still relaxing in folding chairs and enjoying munchies outside the stadium less than 15 minutes before kickoff. But they said they were confident they'd get to their seats on time.
Gonzales was looking forward to her first taste of UK football. She said she hadn't been in a football stadium "since the Raiders were in L.A., which is where I used to live."
Lasley, a veteran of UK football games, scoffed at the idea that fans would be turned off by some construction fencing or having to walk farther to get into the stadium.
"Are you kidding?" she said. "With all these fanatics around here?"