Ryan Seacrest

Emmy host Ryan Seacrest

It's a day that has become synonymous with celebration, when Americans gather to spend time with friends and family, to toast their good fortune with excesses of food and drink, and to be thankful for this truly joyous time of year.

All while arguing football in front of a television set.

But Super Bowl Sunday is not recognized as a national holiday -- at least not yet -- although the number of sick and vacation days taken the following Monday probably rivals the missing manpower of any official three-day weekend.

People flock to stores to stock up for the big game, while at the game site, celebrities turn out in droves to see and be seen at the biggest sporting event of the year.

It's a phenomenon that has become as big as the game itself.

It's also what in part guides FOX's pregame coverage of Super Bowl XLII, which airs Sunday, Feb. 3, from University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

"I look at it as the world's biggest reunion," says "American Idol" regular Ryan Seacrest, who serves as entertainment host on pregame programming and at halftime. "I mean, this is a time when you get together with people that maybe you haven't seen for a while -- friends, family. It's a big corporate reunion, as you know, actually on site at the Super Bowl. But it is bigger than just a game.

"So we thought that this year, we should cover all angles and aspects of what leads up to the main event, and that's what we're going to do.

"So there will be a VIP celebrity red-carpet arrival door and entrance, where I will anchor a portion of the broadcast that I'll be hosting along with the guys at the main desk, and I guess the stars will come through there. So it becomes much more of an entertainment event for the audience than ever before."

Fox Sports chairman David Hill made the decision to play up the entertainment angle after attending last year's Super Bowl in Miami.

"I had decided ... that the Super Bowl had become this very unique animal," he says, "that it was a genuine American holiday -- unofficial -- and that what I'd been aware of, obviously, was that a lot of people who are non-football fans watch the pregame show.

"So when I was down in Miami last year, I was astounded at the number of celebrities who were turning up. And I thought there's got to be a way in which to incorporate the celebrities who were turning up into the pregame show to make it more interesting for the non-football afficionado."

"There are so many parties that happen," Seacrest says. "We're going to send cameras out to all the different parties and show the celebrities that are there. To a degree, part of Hollywood moves itself into Phoenix for that week, and so we'll be partaking in the festivities that surround the game and lead up to it that week."

A-listers expected to appear at the game include Hugh Laurie ("House"), film actors Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson and Shia LaBeouf, and "Idol" judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, who is scheduled to perform her new single, "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow."

Willie Nelson and Alicia Keys are pregame performers, season six "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks will sing the national anthem, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers will perform at halftime. And the list continues to grow.

In a new twist, there also is a report on the Super Bowl as seen from the financial angle, presented by Fox Business Channel's Neil Cavuto.

Hill got the idea to do a business segment after hearing a radio report on how avocado sales in California topped out the day prior to the Super Bowl.

"I thought, 'That's crap,'" Hill says. "I thought to myself, 'I guarantee you it must be the day before Cinco de Mayo.' And so I had someone ring up the avocado growers, and they said, 'Well, it's not the Super Bowl, but it's pretty close.'

"So that got me to thinking. I thought: How many beers are sold on the Saturday? How many dips? How many chips? How many hot dogs? How many burgers? How many barbecues are bought? Then, how many flat-screen TVs? How many people buy new sofas because they've got people coming around?

"Everyone knows that if you have the Super Bowl in your city, it's going to be, you know, $450 million or $600 million, whatever -- an injection into the economy. What I'm trying to find out is: What is the injection into the American economy overall that the Super Bowl brings because of the power of sitting down to watch television on Super Bowl Sunday? So there's going to be stuff like that."

And, of course, there's the football, with analysis from the Fox studio panel of Terry Bradshaw, Curt Menefee, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson, and the in-game call from Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.

That part of the broadcast, says Hill, needs no improvement upon.

"I'm very, very happy with our production going in," he says, "and there'll be one or two little tweaks, but nothing major. It will just be the excellent standard of production, the people you got used to from the network during the year."