When the NFL season began in September, Ellicott City resident and die-hard Baltimore Ravens fan Geoff Lakis didn't expect that six months later his beloved team would be playing in Super Bowl XVLII.
"Did I think they could possibly get there, yes, but I never had the thought, 'Oh, we are going to the Super Bowl,'" said Lakis, who, along with his wife Amy, will be flying to New Orleans for the Feb. 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers. "If I did, I would've made my reservations a long time ago and saved a lot of money."
Lakis, a season-ticket holder and member of Ravens Roost No. 4 in Ellicott City, found out Monday, Jan. 21 that he was a winner in the Ravens' lottery, allowing him to purchase two tickets at face value — $850 each.
"We basically had no thoughts of going to the game until we won the lottery," said Lakis, 52. "We figured it was a once in a lifetime deal. ... so, we decided to buy the tickets and try to piece it together from there."
While other local fans make plans to travel to New Orleans, many more are conspiring to bring a bit of the Super Bowl to Howard County.
From a county government-sponsored breakfast giveaway, to printing Super Bowl T-shirts, to buildings draped in purple light, it looks as if there will be enough Ravens fever in Howard County to turn even the most enthusiastic fan purple in the face.
Leading up to the game, County Executive Ken Ulman is giving away the "Ultimate Ravens Breakfast," complete with menu items like T-sizzle sausage and eggs, Brendan Ayanba-bagels, Michael Eggs Over Easy, and a Box o' Morning Joe Flacco, to the school, office or organization with the most Ravens' pride.
While there is plenty of competition for the best place to go in Howard County for the big game, you would be hard-pressed to argue against Jilly's Bar and Grill in Ellicott City, the official home to Ravens Roost No. 4.
According to Ravens Roost President Jeff Volmer, about one-third of the 130-member roost spends away games at Jilly's, making up just a portion of the normally raucous crowd.
For the AFC Championship game on Jan. 20, Volmer arrived six hours before kickoff to ensure he got a front row seat.
"It was standing room only," said Volmer, 51, of Columbia. "Everyone was rambunctious and excited before the game. It was a really good crowd."
Among the attendees were Ravens Roost members Bill and Theresa Griffin, who, along with the Lakis', will be representing their local contingent in the Big Easy.
"I can't believe it, I'm flying high," said Theresa, whose tickets are on the 50-yard-line. "I'm a huge Ray Lewis fan, so to have this opportunity to see him play one more time is unbelievable."
Theresa said that at first, she and her husband didn't believe they had won..
"We went to check our email to see if we won the lottery, and my husband read it wrong and said we didn't win," said Theresa, who was looking over her husband's shoulder at the computer screen. "Then we were nervous it was a scam, but sure enough we won."
Theresa and her husband immediately purchased two tickets as well as two promotion packages, which include tickets to a Ravens' tailgate party and other special events.
The cost of the trip will run approximately $8,000 — money Theresa said is well spent.
"I'd rather go with the package and be able to do anything," said Theresa, a resident of Easton.
While you won't see the Lakis' or the Griffins at Jilly's on Feb. 3, you'll most likely find fellow roost member Chuck Anderson, of Ellicott City.
Anderson was one of the thousands of Ravens' fans who made the trip to Foxboro, Mass., for the AFC Championship game Jan. 20 against the New England Patriots.
"It was amazing to experience Baltimore winning in an AFC championship like that," said Anderson, who made the trip with a few colleagues from the Howard County Public School System.
While Anderson, a season-ticket holder, explored taking a trip to New Orleans, he ultimately decided to stay close to home for the game.
"We thought about it, but we'll be at the local watering hole supporting the Ravens 100 percent," Anderson said.
While fans still were celebrating the 28-13 victory over the Patriots on Monday, Jan. 21, Nightmare Graphics, in Columbia, was busy making T-shirts.
For the Super Bowl, the company is printing the words "Festivus Maximus" across the front, a tribute to a phrase coined by former head coach Brian Billick before the Ravens beat the Giants in the 2001 Super Bowl. It also says "Ray's Last Ride."
Sam Andelman, President of Nightmare Graphics, said he and his crews have been printing new shirts since the first playoff victory against the Indianapolis Colts.
"I think you'll see us back here two weeks from today printing shirts again," Andelman said.