Valley prepares for Super Bowl parties

PARKERSBURG – For professional football fans, one of the best days of the year – Super Bowl Sunday – is Feb. 3.

This year’s contest will feature the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens competing in New Orleans.

Two of the most popular ways of catching the biggest single game of the year are going to a club or restaurant to watch the game surrounded by strangers and fans or hosting or attending someone’s Super Bowl Party, usually but not always, surrounded by people you know.

For those who want to get out of the house and out on the town, a number of clubs in the area offer televisions – big screen or otherwise – to watch the game. Depending on the year and the teams playing, the clubs may be packed or only moderately full.

Another popular way to celebrate and watch the Super Bowl is to invite friends – from a few to a few dozen – to your home and put out the chips, dips and drinks for a Super Bowl Party. On the other hand, you can hope one of your friends decides to do that and also hope he remembers to invite you.

When used responsibly, beer and alcohol can be a nice part of any Super Bowl party for those interested.

Harold Wilkes, president of North End Market on Emerson Avenue, said the Super Bowl weekend is a busy time for the business, which focuses primarily on beer, wine and alcohol sales.

He estimated that business increases about five to 10 percent over the other busy period of the year, the week which begins with Christmas and ends with New Year’s.

Wilkes said beer is always a popular item for the Super Bowl weekend and the last couple of years have seen an increase in interest in vodkas, especially with the growing popularity of flavored vodkas. One company now produces 27 different flavors of vodka.

Alex McDowell, North End’s liquor manager, said the store also offers a variety of snack items and other popular party items. The store doesn’t do snack trays as such, but does make sandwich spreads like ham salad, cheese salad and chicken salad, which are popular for easy-to-make party sandwiches and sides.

“We do sell a lot more of that stuff that’s easy to prepare,” she said.

“Super Bowl Sunday always tends to be a very busy time for us,” McDowell said.

For those interested in trying something new, McDowell said the North End Market will have a beer tasting from 4-6:30 p.m. Jan. 30, just before this year’s Super Bowl, featuring the new Budweiser Crown Black beer or the new Black Velvet Toasted Caramel whiskey.

Jim Oppe, owner of several local Foodland locations, said Super Bowl weekend is always a busy time. There is a lot of interest in food, beverages and snacks. The deli departments also do a lot of party trays – including some football-themed ones – which grow in popularity as Super Bowl Sunday approaches.

“We always try to stock up on what people want,” he said.

The local Foodland locations have been stocking more popular party food items over the last few weeks due to football playoffs and Oppe said they will start getting ready for the Super Bowl soon, with displays of popular items and foods. The local Foodlands always hold a Super Bowl Saturday sale on the Saturday before the game, which usually proves popular for last-minute shoppers.

“People still like to get together,” Oppe said, adding the winter season often provides an extra incentive for people to gather and have fun together.

Whether watching the game at a club or at someone else’s home, officials urge anyone planning to consume alcohol to take precautions, said Toni Tiano, director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Highway Safety Program.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, along with the National Football League and TEAM (Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management), have joined forces with safety and law enforcement officials to spread an important safety message to the public about designating a sober driver on Super Bowl Sunday “Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk.”

“Before choosing to drink, choose a sober designated driver. Avoid the unsportsmanlike conduct of driving drunk by handing off your keys so that you, your passengers and everyone on our roads can safely arrive home,” Tiano said.

“Drunk driving is always preventable, and driving drunk could result in seriously injuring or killing yourself or someone else. Motorists can expect local law enforcement agencies to have a visible presence and to stop anyone who makes the dangerous decision to drink and drive,” she said.

According to NHTSA, 10,228 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in 2010. These drunk-driving fatalities accounted for 31 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the U.S. In addition, alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was almost twice as high during the weekend (31 percent) than during weekdays (16 percent) and four times higher at night (37 percent) than during the day (9 percent).

If you’re attending a Super Bowl party or watching the game at a sports bar or restaurant:

* Designate your sober driver before the party begins.

* Avoid drinking too much alcohol too fast. Pace yourself. Eat plenty of food, take breaks, and alternate with non-alcoholic drinks.

* If you don’t have a designated driver, ask a sober friend for a ride home; call a cab, friend or family member to come and get you; or if possible stay where you are for the night and don’t drive until you are sober.

* Never let friends drive drunk. Arrange a safe way for them to get home.

* Always buckle up. It’s still your best defense against other drunk drivers.

If you’re hosting a Super Bowl party:

* Make sure all of your guests designate their sober drivers in advance, or help arrange ride-sharing with sober drivers.

* Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages at the party.

* Host your party just like they do at the stadium. Stop serving alcohol at the end of the third quarter of the game. The fourth quarter is perfect for serving coffee and dessert.

* Keep the phone numbers of local cab companies on hand and take the keys away from anyone who is thinking of driving drunk.

* Remember, you can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you served ends up in a drunk-driving crash.

* If an underage person drinks and drives, the parent may be legally liable for any damage, injury or death caused by the underage driver.

* Likewise, parents or other adults who provide alcohol to, or host a party where alcohol is available to, those under age 21 could face jail time.