After months of hype and a week of traffic detours, the NFL draft finally kicked off Thursday in Philadelphia.
Vendors lined the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 21st Street to the steps of Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the league set up the main stage for its annual spectacle.
Thousands of fans flooded into the fenced-off area, protected at several entrances by checkpoints with guards and metal detectors.
Inside, those in the crowd bought food and beer, eyed NFL memorabilia and merchandise, and took part in a range of activities, like kicking a regulation field goal or taking a selfie with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
Miami Dolphins booster Danny Poague traveled thousands of miles for the occasion.
“I came from Boise, Idaho, because the draft is my favorite part of the year for the Dolphins. Because they’ve been bad for so long,” he said. “This is basically like my Super Bowl.”
Not holding his breath for a championship with the current roster, Poague is instead hanging his hopes on new players, which is why he loves the draft.
“This represents hope. This represents the next step for the Dolphins. Every pick could be the next great pick.”
In a sea of football jerseys, Eagles fans boasted a majority. Self-proclaimed superfan Monty G, sporting a cap with a robotic eagle flapping its wings, stopped to take a picture with a fan of his.
“Like I tell everybody,” he said, before starting to sing. “It ain’t nothin’ but the Super Bowl, baby. No ifs, ands, buts, or maybes. Have all the Eagles fans goin’ crazy. Because my Eagles are the best baby BABY!”
But not everybody was ready for some football.
In recent weeks, residents in neighborhoods by the museum had been complaining about road closures, subpar public transit, and a lack of communication from the city and the league.
Fairmount resident Barbara Kirschenstein said the arrival of the NFL inconvenienced her.
“I tried to get into town to a doctor’s appointment two days ago. Luckily [my husband] Alan was with me and we managed,” she said. “It’s been crazy in this neighborhood for the last year. And this only adds frosting to the chaos.”
On Thursday, as fans slowly made their way toward the event, Kirschenstein people-watched from her stoop on Spring Garden Street.
Although she likes to watch football on TV, Kirschenstein said she was not planning to brave the crowds and catch the draft in person.
“No. Nope.” She laughed. “Nope.”