Las Vegas glittered with San Francisco red and gold this weekend as 49ers fans from around the globe took over Sin City for the biggest football game of the year.
'A Dream Come True': 49ers Faithful Converge on Las Vegas for Super Bowl Festivities
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The Niners faithful put aside any game-day worries on Saturday evening as they congregated at fan parties, like the one hosted at Splash Supper Club, a night lounge off the Las Vegas Strip.
Sacramento resident Fran Thompson, 54, was there to celebrate her birthday, and her favorite team making it to the big game.
“I’ve been a Niners fan since I was 12. I used to hear my family screaming in the living room about football,” said Thompson, who has been a season ticket holder for a decade. “I’ve been very faithful. This is so awesome to be back in the Super Bowl. I hope we beat Kansas City this time. We almost had them last time, and we’re gonna do it this time.”
The championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers kicks off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time. But super fans have been attending events all weekend to get hyped and hang close to the action.
Some, like Joe Leonor, who organizes the Niner Empire fan club and helped put together the event at Splash, don’t plan to go inside Allegiant Stadium on Sunday. Tickets were too expensive, Leonor said, and he’d rather be watching the game alongside the people he tailgates with for every other game.
“I’ve never been inside a Super Bowl. If tickets were given to me, that would be cool. But I really want to be around my people. We put in the work throughout the season and those are the people I want to sit with,” Leonor said.
Also having a drink with friends at Splash on Saturday evening was Rey Pena, the official 2022 49ers “Fan of the Year.” Several years ago, at age 30, Pena was diagnosed with cancer in his right eye, which had to be removed to stop the disease from spreading. But he didn’t let that dampen his enthusiasm for his favorite team. The Manteca resident, aka “Eye of the Niner,” now has an unmistakable prosthetic eye with a 49ers logo front and center.
“I feel great about this season. I couldn’t hope for a better team this year,” Pena said. “We’re going to go tailgate near the stadium and then we’re going to the Super Bowl.”
Sammie Lewis has been a season-ticket holder for 16 years and thinks “this is the year.”
“It’s been 30 years for us since the last time we won a Super Bowl,” Lewis said, during Saturday night’s Niners party at Splash. “I am feeling really, really good about it.”
He and his wife moved to North Las Vegas from San José in September, and he said he’s excited to have his team appear in the Super Bowl in his new hometown.
“We have friends coming over tomorrow, we’ll have a good time and eat and celebrate,” Lewis said. “But I will be in San Francisco for the parade. I wouldn’t miss that. I’d lose my job for that.”
As the sun set over the desert on Saturday, Niners fans descended on the Strip, turning the iconic thoroughfare red and gold.
“It’s unreal. This is a dream come true, especially watching my team,” said Joseph Torres from Fresno, who came here to attend his first Super Bowl. “I’m hoping we get that W. That would be the cherry on top of the trip.”
Many of the 49ers fans at Saturday’s festivities on the Strip said they had traveled here from locations much farther afield than California. Among them was Ray Clark, aka DJ RC, who is president of the Dallas, Texas chapter of the Niner Empire fan club.
“I’m here to watch my 49ers play the game. Let’s get our sixth ring,” said Clark, who was DJing a party on Saturday. Niners fandom in Texas is huge, he said. “We have like 11 chapters across the state of Texas and we come together throughout the year and have fun with each other.”
On Saturday night, the Strip became a catwalk for 49ers fans aiming to show off their best looks.
Fans Anita West, Michelle Jordan and Shelly Begay strolled together in style. The three friends sported shimmering 49ers-themed cowboy boots, hats, shirts and earrings they had bedazzled themselves.
“We do our own outfits. I did my boots and the jacket,” said Jordan, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, pointing to the red and gold rhinestone Niners logos on her black leather jacket and boots.
Further up the street, Albert Vann was parked on the sidewalk in a red and gold Niner-themed mobile recliner chair he had fashioned himself. The San José resident is a regular at Niners tailgates, and multiple fans on Saturday immediately recognized his vehicle.
“This is a little shuttle I use to get from tailgate to tailgate. Just having a good time and put a smile on people’s faces,” Vann said. “I grew up in the Bay, I’ll always be faithful to the Bay.”