As Baltimore Ravens players and coaches prepare for their Saturday night wild card playoff battle with their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, operators of bars and other businesses in Harford County are getting ready for a game day crush of Ravens fans.
"Of course, we have a big Ravens crowd," Alex Lee, owner of MacGregor's Restaurant in Havre de Grace, said.
He said the bar will offer two-for-one draft specials and a football pub grub menu. Purple Ravens beads will also be given away.
Although MacGregor's regularly attracts football fans, "for the playoffs, we bust out a lot more," Lee said.
The Ravens, who finished the 2014 regular season in third place in the AFC North division with a 10-6 record, are playing the AFC North champion Steelers. Kickoff at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Saturday.
Michael Cain, a bartender at Looney's Pub in Bel Air, expects fans will start coming in around 7 or 7:30 p.m., if not earlier.
He noted the bar and restaurant is usually crowded on Ravens' game days.
"We're going to have a normal crowd," Cain said. "We expect it to be a crazy night."
Patrons will be able to order off of Looney's game day menu, and they can enjoy $3 domestic beers, in bottles or draft, and $4 for a Maryland craft beer or Guinness Irish stout.
"A whole lot of purple will be in the building," Cain continued. "We expect we'll be ready for it."
Aaron Beard, a manager for the Main Street Tower in downtown Bel Air, said "all of our regular Ravens drink specials will be running" Saturday, and the restaurant's regular tailgating buffet will be available starting two hours before kickoff through halftime.
Beard said extra bartenders and servers will be on hand.
"We're definitely excited for it, glad they made it to the playoffs," he said. "[We're] excited for everyone to come out and have a good time."
The morning after the Ravens clinched their wild card playoff berth with Sunday's 20-10 regular season ending win over the Cleveland Browns, Margie Coakley, of Coakley's Pub in Havre de Grace, said she was just starting to lay out the week's schedule, which features New Year's Eve on top of the playoffs.
"We always have a really good crowd," she said of Ravens supporters.
The bar will offer drink specials and wings, as "we sell a crazy amount of wings" during games, Coakley said.
There will also be a corn hole toss, and the game will be broadcast on all the pub's large TVs.
Coakley said she thinks the playoffs will be "awesome," with people cheering the Ravens on "since we are all shocked they made it."
With the game being played in Pittsburgh, MacGregor's Lee noted, more fans are likely to be staying in the area to watch on television rather than traveling to see it live.
Harford has its fair share of Steelers fans as well, and Steelers-Ravens games have been known to stoke plenty of smack talk and occasional fisticuffs, but the two teams' Harford fans tend to congregate in different places for communal viewing of the games.
So, MacGregor's, as virtually all the area's watering holes, will focus on all things purple, which is not to say Steeler fans will be turned away.
Lee assured that, despite the emphasis on the Ravens, Steelers fans are welcome and the bar remains neutral in its sporting allegiances.
"Harford County has a pretty good mix of Steelers fans," he said. "It's a good rivalry, so it's nice to have that in the bar."
Sean Cummings, service manager for Wegmans Food Markets in Abingdon, said he expects the store will be crowded with shoppers that day as kickoff gets closer.
"Come game day, we always look to be a little bit busier," he said.
Cummings said the store has some Ravens decorations, such as inflatables, and there will be even more Ravens balloons and decorations Friday and Saturday.
Ravens-themed cupcakes and cookies will also be available, as well as the typical football snacks and drinks.
"We have a full selection for the wing bar for their game day parties," Cummings said.
He noted many shoppers come in on game days to pick up football fare such as chips and dip, pizza, chicken wings and soda.
Cummings said the store usually has Ravens decorations during football season, and employees then rotate in Baltimore Orioles decorations during baseball season.
"We just want to make sure we have a hometown presence for the fan base," he said.
Steelers fans ready, too
Despite the seemingly ubiquitous "Purple Pride," Harford County definitely has its share of Steelers fans.
Kurt Schultz runs the Steelers Fanatics of Harford County group and noted the Aberdeen VFW, where his group watches Steelers games, will be sharing quarters Saturday with a Ravens Roost.
"We will get to celebrate together," he said, explaining the VFW includes two areas for separate parties. "They stay on their side and we stay on ours."
Nevertheless, "we get together and socialize because we know everybody from the community," he said.
Schultz, a Pittsburgh native, who lives in Aberdeen, said his relationship with Ravens fans has always been friendly.
"I think it's good, as long as it's good, clean banter back and forth," he said, adding he is unafraid to show Steelers pride.
At a recent office Christmas party, "I had to have my Terrible Towel with me," he said. "We will see who is crying on Monday morning."
The Steelers Fanatics has a mailing list of 147 people, and Schultz knows of at least several other Steelers groups in Harford County.
"We have a lot of fans," he said about the Harford loyalists. "We just all hope the game is based off of the players and not the officials."