It's bowl week in Boise. For the 22nd year, Idaho's capital city is hosting a post-season college football bowl game.
This year’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl features the BYU Cougars and the Western Michigan Broncos. The game kicks off at 2 p.m. Friday and already the teams and their fans are gearing up as the hype builds.
As of Monday afternoon, we’re told about 21,000 tickets had been sold for the nation's longest-running cold weather bowl game. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Executive Director Kevin McDonald expects they'll sell a little more than that by game day.
Before hitting the blue turf, the Cougars and Broncos hit the court, going head-to-head for a much friendlier competition. Western Michigan University and BYU saw each other for the first time during Albertsons' Tackle Hunger event, where they packed 40,000 meals for the Idaho Foodbank, which will go to families in need.
“The energy is just contagious," Albertsons spokesperson Gineal Davidson said. "I'm glad it’s directed toward positive cause. I can't imagine what it would be like on the field after going out trying to win a game.”
McDonald says this is a good buildup to the game and he is feeling good about turnout.
“It'll be a great day of college football and family fun,” McDonald told KTVB. "I think having BYU is as close to having a local team as we can.”
Just like the state's famous potatoes, Cougars quarterback Tanner Mangum is also Idaho grown.
“When I was eight years old my first flag football game was on the blue turf," Mangum said. "It was the jamboree for Optimist league and my head coach was Kevin McDonald, who's now the president of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl."
So what better place to play his final college football game?
“Kind of come full circle," he said. "But it’s exciting. I love being home, love visiting Boise. I've always had Boise close to my heart. I've always been defending Boise and telling everyone how great it is.”
GAME DAY GUIDE: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
The local BYU Alumni Association Boise Chapter is stoked they're here too.
“It’s exciting for people who don’t normally get the opportunity to go to the game [in Provo]. The tickets are usually well over $100 to go,” BYU Alumni Association Boise Chapter co-chair Laura Bird said. “It can be a fun family event."
The alumni association is hosting an indoor tailgate at the Caven-Williams Sports Complex.
“Being a BYU fan in the Treasure Valley is sometimes hard," Bird said. "So it’s fun when we get to be here and not be playing against Boise State."
She says fans are coming from all over the country – even as far as Virginia.
“So far we have confirmed I think it’s about 4-5,000 tickets sold from our alumni base," Bird said. "They're coming from largely Utah and Idaho."
And of course, all those visitors are helping boost Boise's economy.
"I think what it means is exposure to our city," McDonald said. "It also means hotel rooms, economic impact. Last year... this game generated about $8 million of economic impact to the city of Boise.”
On top of that, national ESPN coverage will again show off our snow-capped mountains, beautiful Boise River and the Blue.
“I call it our Christmas postcard to the nation,” McDonald added.
“We're excited just to play in a bowl game," Mangum said. "It's always special, it's always fun, the activities leading up to it."
Western Michigan University Assistant Athletic Director Kristin Keirns told me they won't have a huge turn-out at the matchup; they say it will be mostly players' families.
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Fan Fest will take over the parking lot three hours before the game. You can learn about it in our Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Event Guide.