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With limited parking for Red Carpet Bowl, fans urged to arrive early

High school football fans who want to see a couple of good games will arrive at the Red Carpet Bowl a little early on Friday. Those who want to get some exercise can arrive late.

Because of construction at Warren Central, the site of Friday’s season-opening doubleheader, parking for the Red Carpet Bowl will be extremely limited. The primary parking areas will be across Mississippi 27 at Beechwood Elementary School and Hinds Community College, both of which will require fans to walk a few hundred yards or ride shuttle buses to the gate.

“It won’t be easy, but we’re going to do the best we can to make them comfortable,” Vicksburg Warren School District athletic director Preston Nailor said. “I’d say get there early and enjoy as much football as you can, or else you’re going to be walking.”

Vicksburg High plays Madison Central in the first game of the doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. Warren Central faces Holmes County Central in the second game, at approximately 8 p.m.

Most of the parking lot at Warren Central High School is filled with construction equipment and materials. A new lot has been paved on the south side of campus, but Nailor said it will be reserved for buses, handicap parking and Viking A-Club members.

Warren Central’s band field will also be used for parking if it’s dry. If it rains before Friday and the field turns muddy, it will also be unavailable.

That means the vast majority of fans will have to park in lots at Beechwood and Hinds, or along Highway 27. Two shuttle buses will be available for fans, and security and ROTC groups from Vicksburg High and Warren Central will help direct them to loading and unloading areas.

Fans can also walk to the game from the lots. It’s only about a quarter-mile from Hinds to Warren Central as the crow flies, but navigating there on paved roads and around obstacles can stretch the distance to as far as a mile. Warren County Sheriff’s deputies will be stationed near Warren Central to control traffic and help pedestrians across the road, but it was unclear how far their range will extend.

With afternoon heat forecast to be around 90 degrees, Nailor said the shuttle buses were added as a safety measure. The buses will begin running at 5 p.m. and continue after the second game until the area is clear, to help fans safely travel the two-lane Highway 27 after dark.

“The main concern with the first game was with the heat. If people get here at 6 o’clock it’s still going to be hot,” Nailor said. “It doesn’t seem like a long way, and it’s not, but when it’s hot it can still be dangerous.”

For those parking and then walking to the game, some safety measures are encouraged. Be alert while walking along Highway 27, and wear light-colored clothing or have a flashlight in hand to be more visible to drivers. Most cellphones have a flashlight feature built in.

Red Carpet Bowl Committee chairman Mark Buys said parking has been a major issue in planning for this year’s event, and asked fans to be safe and patient.

“It’s a major concern for us, but it’s a one-year blip. We’ve got a great lineup of games and we don’t expect fans to be upset by that, but they are going to be inconvenienced,” Buys said. “This is a one-year show of progress. It’s an inconvenience, but it’s an inconvenience of progress.”

Nailor added that he doesn’t expect parking to be a major issue at Warren Central’s other home games this season. The unique setup of the Red Carpet Bowl, with three visiting teams, their bands — Vicksburg, Madison Central and Holmes’ bands will each bring several buses — and respective fan bases, simply turns a normal logistical issue into a major headache.

“In a regular game situation you don’t have to worry about it so much,” Nailor said. “When you have three good teams coming in and you have two games stacked on top of each other it becomes a big issue.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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