NEW YORK (AP) — Laughter and shrieks echoed through Times Square on Wednesday as bundled-up football fans slid down a gleaming toboggan run, the centerpiece of a Super Bowl-themed outdoor street fair that has invaded the city's busiest thoroughfare.
Sun glinted off the toboggan run, which towers several stories high and looks like a giant slide, and fake snow spat out of a machine into the frigid air, even though the ground on Super Bowl Boulevard had already received a coating of actual snow.
"We're never going to get to do that again down Broadway," said Margaux Untracht, 28, as she exited the toboggan run with a group of co-workers. "It was fast, but not that fast. It was awesome."
Having ducked out of work during lunch to check out the boulevard festivities, Untracht was in good company. Many of the people roaming around the event were New Yorkers and New Jerseyans — often clad in Jets or Giants apparel — who had come to see what all of the fuss was about.
Hundreds of people watched as the shiny silver Vince Lombardi Trophy made its debut in a glass case, where it will remain until it is awarded to the winner of Sunday's game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck carried the prestigious award from a truck to a trophy display area as a marching band drum line pounded out a cadence for the crowd.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the crowd for the unveiling of giant lighted Roman numerals XLVIII.
"As a big football fan and even bigger fan of the Big Apple I could not be more thrilled at what's happening with Super Bowl Boulevard," de Blasio said.
Cuomo said, "This Super Bowl Boulevard is symbolic of the way New York has opened its heart to all the fans."
Organizers expect more than a million people to visit the boulevard between now and Sunday. Lines were already growing as people waited in frigid temperatures to get autographs from NFL players and milled about the many tents emblazoned with corporate logos.
Steven Bell, 52, who works for the city's transit authority, was standing in line to register for a free prize.
"I was waiting for this all year," said Bell, who lives in Brooklyn and was hoping to catch a glimpse of his favorite Giants players. "I'm not gonna miss a single day."
Bell did not, however, plan on paying $5 to take a turn on the toboggan run.
"My mind says yes, but my back says no," he said.
Freebies were being given out all over, from tiny cups of hot chocolate from The Coffee Bean to mini Snickers bars that were snatched up in the Snickers-branded tent. People walked around carrying steaming plates of pizza from the red Papa John's truck and adjoining tent, while others played video games under the green Xbox tent.
A digital billboard displayed player statistics on one corner. A few blocks south, a cluster of narrow digital columns broadcast NFL game footage. Children ran through an obstacle course at one exhibit and kicked footballs into a net over a miniature field goal post at another.
"We couldn't afford to go to the Super Bowl, so we wanted to be in the next closest thing to it," said Carol Fett, of Jefferson Township, N.J., who was at the boulevard with her 24-year-old daughter, Kelly. "It just brings up excitement in the area during our lull time. The winter is kinda, you don't do much. It gets people back out in the city, the businesses are making money. Excitement all around."
In Bryant Park, a giant "Pepcity" tent had been erected by PepsiCo, where booths served free samples of foods incorporating products like cherry Pepsi BBQ wings and Pepsi-braised brisket. Broadway cast members from shows including "Chicago" and "Rocky" performed musical numbers.
Shawn Abbot, 38, of Brooklyn was wearing a Seahawks hat, even though he's a Jets fan at heart.
"You can't beat free food. They're keeping us entertained, keeping people fed," he said. "It's wonderful."
Associated Press Writer Karen Matthews contributed to this report.