For many, many months now, Orlando City SC has been promoting, hyping, and eagerly anticipating Kickoff Week, the final week leading up to the Main Event on March 8. It’s sort of got the feel of a high school Spirit Week; that crazy week around homecoming when everyone participated in pajama or class colors day and silly after-school events like dunk the teacher, leading up to the final assembly and the big game.
So, to recap and condense it all down, here is the list of Kickoff Week events that you will not want to miss (and reminder: most come with a free ticket to the game).
Tuesday, March 3 – Soccer in the City (Church Street Exchange, 6 p.m., tickets: $50,GA/$150, VIP)
One of the club's best assets is the Orlando City Foundation, chaired and carefully managed by Kay Rawlins, the First Lady of OCSC. Kay has lovingly nurtured and cultivated civic goodwill around the club’s philanthropic arm, which raises funds to support the mission of bringing soccer and sport to inner city, at-risk youth, while promoting wellness, mentoring, and teamwork.
One of the Foundation’s signature events for the past few years has been the annual Soccer in the City event. Originally hosted in 2013 as a ladies-only, intro-to-soccer event, it was attended by a few hundred women down at Blue Martini. Last year’s event was an even bigger success with several hundred women (including my wife and all of her girlfriends) lining up to meet (and flirt with) the players. The event was a huge success and concluded with a (rumor has it) scandalous incident involving whipped cream and bare-chested players.
This year, the event has been opened up to men as well as women, and presumably no whipped cream will be allowed. The runway show will most likely include an auction for player-worn jerseys and the unveiling of the 2015 away kit (which we kinda already know about, thanks to FIFA’s gazzumping the release late last year).
Thursday, March 5 – Purple Pride 5K (Lake Eola SE corner, 6 p.m., tickets: $35 including a t-shirt)
Orlandoans love running just as much as Forrest Gump. Rarely does a week go by where downtown streets aren’t barricaded on a Saturday morning for a group of sweaty people to run en masse in a giant loop. This Thursday you can join other Orlando City fans, decked out in purple, in the sheer joy and pleasure of breaking a sweat for 3.1 miles. The timed race will culminate in an awards ceremony on Sunday prior to the game in the lower bowl FanZone. All proceeds will go to youth soccer scholarships.
Friday, March 6 – Soccer Under the Stars (Lake Eola Amphitheater, 6:30 p.m., FREE)
There is nothing more amazing than a gorgeous Orlando spring evening outside. And the Lake Eola Amphitheater on Rosalind at Washington, is one the most pleasant spots in the city to enjoy an evening outdoors.
Open air movies are a beloved city tradition, if you’ve ever been to the Popcorn in the Park in Winter Park, or Leu Gardens Date Night, you know that people love to wrap a blanket around their loved ones and snuggle in to watch a movie while taking in the atmosphere. Orlando City’s event is a great way to make a family-friendly and free evening available to fans while watching a soccer-oriented flick, which isn’t Bend It Like Beckham.
Will Ferrell and Robert Duval star in the 2005 film Kicking and Screaming, which sounds like a not-too-bad film (I haven’t seen it – it’s not on Netflix) about a father and son rivalry over the beautiful game.
Saturday March 7 – Record Breaking Pub Crawl (Downtown Orlando, 3 – 9 p.m., tickets: $35)
Last month, the New York Times did a great piece about India’s obsession with breaking Guinness World Records. Crazy records include Most Simultaneous Handshakes (48,870) and the Largest Motorcycle Pyramid (201 men, 10 motorcycles). With India’s devotion and effort to coordinate that many people, Orlando City’s task of finding 4,885 to break the World Record seems relatively less challenging, especially in Orlando, where on any given weekend, the streets are packed with barflies looking for a good time. So let’s combine our love for a good challenge (#FilltheBowl anyone?) with alcohol and you not only have the makings of a super fun afternoon but every DUI attorney in town will be licking their chops.
There will be a coordinated crowd roving from bar-to-bar, starting at 3 p.m. at Harry Buffalo on Church Street, then meandering over to Elixir, I-Bar, and Saddle Up at 4:30. Then, stumbling down Orange to Wall Street at 6 p.m. for the final stop, before the music starts up at 8 for the "afterparty" (you know it’s a hardcore day when the after party starts before the nightly news). Party Safely, Manelanders.
This stands to be a crazy, fun-filled week in the City Beautiful, leading up to Sunday afternoon’s much-anticipated season opener against New York City FC. Look for The Mane Land to be at some of this week’s events and to give you a rundown of what you missed and to re-live the fun.