NCAA March Madness continues into April, at least in Atlanta, Georgia.  The city is hosting the Men’s Final Four for the first time in the tournament’s 75-year history with Louisville and Michigan vying for the national title inside the Georgia Dome. 

But the collegiate athletes aren’t the only ones on the road. Fanfare escalated the first week of April, as students, fans and alumni poured into Atlanta’s airport alongside notable celebrities including TBS’ primetime comedian, Conan O’Brien.  He left New York and hit the road to host a series of shows from Atlanta’s famed entertainment venue, the Tabernacle.  Since then Georgia residents have begun celebrity spotting.  Tweets and Facebook posts have placed notables throughout Atlanta’s dining scene including Hugh Acheson’s Midtown restaurant, Empire State South in midtown and the west side’s the Optimist

Off the Court

The festivities are not reserved for media darlings; this weekend has been all about the fans. Outside the Georgia Dome, the reverberating sounds of thousands of dribbling basketballs was reminiscent of heavy raindrops hitting a tin roof.  The source—thousands of kids and families.  Outfitted with face paint and wearing Powerade-logoed Final Four t-shirts, kids and their families dribbled basketballs through the heart of “the Madness” for a one-mile stretch of Andrew Young International Boulevard. 

The event wouldn’t be complete without an NCAA and NBA player, and that was none other than the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Captivating a crowd of tiny onlookers and their parents, three-time NCAA Champion and six-time NBA Champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar encouraged the participants to “power through” adversity, make physical activity a priority and to exercise their minds as much as their bodies.  Abdul-Jabbar also led the Final Four Dribble fueled by Powerade as the official grand marshal.  Afterward, all participants were then able to gain free access to Bracket Town refreshed by Coke Zero.

While many fans’ brackets were busted a long time ago, Bracket Town is going strong.  Located just down the street from Coca-Cola headquarters, the fan fest has been taking place inside the Georgia World Congress Center. It showcases most NCAA sports, including football, golf, tennis, soccer, and, of course, basketball.  Inside Bracket Town, fans can choose between a number of activities and events, including youth clinics.  There, fans can compete in contests, promotions and go home with signatures from basketball greats. For a behind-the-scenes look, check out Journey’s Bracket Town blog here.

Tourney Time Block Party

Of course it wouldn’t be an event without a soundtrack. Just east of the Georgia Dome, DJs sounded off with music, karaoke, acoustic jam sessions and a conglomeration of food trucks set up to feed hungry fans. Centennial Olympic Park also made the transformation to an outdoor amphitheater Friday, Saturday and Sunday leading up to the championship game.  On Saturday, the Coke Zero Countdown Concert entertained thousands with live musical sensations scheduled throughout the day.

The final game tips off tonight between Louisville and Michigan with more celebratory Madness expected through the wee hours.