Once a year, students, sports fans and alumni alike flood to the Lehigh Valley for the nation’s oldest college rivalry. The Lehigh-Lafayette football game does not only fill stadiums with record-breaking attendance numbers, but also helps local businesses.
As the university prepares for the influx of visitors by ensuring additional police presence and traffic monitoring, stores and restaurants prepare to face the crowds, while still displaying their Lehigh pride.
Molly’s Irish Grille & Sports Pub, a popular off-campus bar, is preparing for the masses by stocking up on popular beverages and clearing out tables and chairs, as it anticipates heavy crowds throughout the weekend.
“Starting at 11 a.m., the whole place is filled,” Molly’s employee, Giavanna Heaton said. “They take out all of the tables and chairs, so it is kind of like a big party. A lot of alumni will come in with their kids. We show the games on all of the TVs, and we open up the back bar to prepare for the overflow.”
Heaton said the day is the second-busiest of the year, following St. Patrick’s day.
“We stock up on all of the beer and liquor,” she said. “New Years and the night before Thanksgiving bring in a ton of business too, but this is definitely a crazy one.”
Like Molly’s, local Mexican restaurant Tulum anticipates the day of the Rivalry game will be one of its busiest days of the year.
Tulum employee Amber Parry said the staff makes extra portions of popular orders, such as chips and guacamole, but, due to the small-scale kitchen, the restaurant’s wait is often long. People tend to be understanding, however.
“We get upwards of an hour to an hour-and-a-half waits for food,” Parry said. “We do what we can, we make more of everything, but our kitchen is small so we are limited in how much we can prepare.”
In addition to preparing for increased crowds, local restaurants and businesses are getting in the game day spirit, partaking in Le-Laf traditions of their own.
Roasted, a cafe on West 4th Street, is expecting one of the biggest breakfast rushes of the year.
“The whole place is filled with kids and families, but they tend to clear out once the game starts, and go off and do their own thing,” Roasted employee Chris McDermott said.
McDermott said the cafe typically runs a game-day special, and the staff plans to sport custom brown and white t-shirts that say “Go Lehigh” on the back, as their own way of showing school pride.
The impact of the game reaches beyond restaurants. The Lehigh University Bookstore is prepared for the Rivalry game, stocked up on popular items such as hoodies, hats, scarves and temporary tattoos.
Though much of the action takes place in Goodman Stadium, the entire community feels the excitement of the Rivalry, Heaton said.
She said, while local employees are also celebrating the game, fans should recognize how taxing such heavy crowds can be on typically smaller businesses. She hopes fans are cognizant of how tiring the day can be for those working, and she advises fans to have a little extra patience, while still having a great time.