SUPER Bowl fans ignored Covid face mask rules as they packed into bars and started tailgate parties ahead of tonight’s big game.
Pictures showed crowded restaurants and beer tents in Tampa, Florida, as the party got into full swing on Saturday night.
Fans party in the street in the Ybor district of Tampa, Florida, on Saturday night ahead of the Super BowlCredit: Splash News
Visitors risk $500 fines for flouting a mask mandate in parts of the cityCredit: Reuters
Drinkers packed into bars and restaurants as the party got into full swingCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Some fans camped out in RVs and tents outside the Raymond James Stadium, where music blared from 9pm.
Groups of fans gathered around fire pits and set up for the warm-up party.
Others headed to the city’s packed Riverwalk and to watch a pirate-themed fireworks display.
Rockets and lasers erupted from a pirate ship anchored in the Hillsborough River in tribute to hometown heroes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
They are the first side ever to play a Super Bowl at their home stadium.
Tonight they take on reigning champions the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, which kicks off at 6.30pm.
The party is expected to continue all day Sunday until the showpiece event this evening.
Buccaneers fans partied the night away in TampaCredit: Reuters
Some wore masks as huge crowds filled the cityCredit: Splash News
Some celebrations appeared to get out of handCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Spirits were not dampened by warnings it could turn into a Covid superspreader eventCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Some fans held tailgate parties outside the Raymond James StadiumCredit: Reuters
Hundreds thronged together in Tampa’s Riverwalk, one of the areas covered by a mask mandateCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Crowds watched a fireworks display over the Hillsborough RiverCredit: Rex Features
A pirate-themed laser show celebrated hometown heroes the Tampa Bay BuccaneersCredit: Rex Features
Fans’ spirits appeared not to be dampened by the Covid pandemic and many openly flouted social distancing rules.
On Saturday hundreds of people were seen mingling without face coverings in areas where the mayor has issued a mask mandate.
Visitors risk a $500 fine for breaching the rule imposed on January 28.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said at the time: “We need everyone to take personal responsibility to keep themselves, other fans and our Tampa Bay community safe.”
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said last week he did not anticipate his officers would enforce Covid measures other than reminding people to keep their distance.
“We really don’t want to get into being the mask police,” he said.
But his force issued a stern statement yesterday after reports of Friday night parties that violated Covid protocols, saying the lack of compliance at some venues was “incredibly disappointing”.
Rick Kriseman, mayor of nearby St Petersburg, was furious after pictures of maskless crowds partying shoulder to shoulder at 50 Cent’s bash.
He blasted on Twitter: “This isn’t how we should be celebrating the Super Bowl. It’s not safe or smart. It’s stupid.
“We’re going to take a very close look at this, and it may end up costing someone a lot more than 50 cent.”
Another glitzy bash in Tampa was a tropical pool party at the WTR Pool and Grill club – where Mike Tyson was spotted after lowering his mask to smoke a suspicious cigarette.
Mike Tyson was pictured smoking at a Super Bowl pre-game partyCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Hundreds crowded into the WTR club pool party in TampaCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Football fans soaking up the atmosphere in Tampa BayCredit: AFP or licensors
Performers on stage at the Pretty Girl Takeover Super Bowl Day Party in TampaCredit: Rex Features
Not all party-goers were sticking to social distancingCredit: Rex Features
The nation’s top health officials warned last week the Super Bowl could turn into a superspreader event driving infections and deaths.
They urged people to gather with friends over Zoom, not in crowds or at each other’s homes.
Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said: “I’m worried about Super Bowl Sunday, quite honestly.
“People gather, they watch games together. We’ve seen outbreaks already from football parties.
“So, I really do think that we need to watch this and be careful.”
NFL legend Tom Brady is back in Super Bowl action tonight after leading the Buccaneers to the showpiece finale.
The six-time champion, 43, will compete in a record tenth Super Bowl.
The Kansas City Chiefs flew into Tampa on Saturday without their assistant coach Britt Reid, who was involved in a suspected DUI crash that put two young children in hospital.
It cast a cloud over the reigning champions as they seek to defend their Super Bowl title led by star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Kansas City Chiefs led by Patrick Mahomes in tonight’s Super Bowl LVCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Mahomes, center, and the Chiefs hope to win for the second year in a rowCredit: AP:Associated Press