Falcons tailgaters in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood near downtown Atlanta.
ATLANTA -- The festivities started before noon Thursday, in a large vacant lot leading into Castleberry Hill.
The participants were football fans, on hand to lend spirit to the Falcons game scheduled to start more than eight hours later.
"We have tequila gold, tequila silver," said one exuberant woman whose camp took shape around lunchtime. "Every hour on the half hour," she said, they toast the Falcons with a shot of liquor.
The tailgaters appear every game day in the lots flanking the homes and lofts of the neighborhood, which is southwest of downtown. Castleberry Hill is a neighborhood with residents who contend that the tailgating is overly spirited -- and seemingly endless on game days.
"By midnight tonight, it will still be going on -- the 'boom boom boom' of all the giant speakers," said Robin Gagnon of the Castleberry Hill neighborhood association.
It's not just tailgating, she says. It's day-long urban camping-- with gasoline generators, charcoal fires and stadium-level sound systems. "You combine drunken behavior for hours on end, with no (city) controls, and inappropriate or too-low a police presence, and yes, you have a public safety issue," Gagnon said.
Many tailgaters retorted that they had peacefully used the neighborhood's vacant lots for many years before Castleberry Hill became trendy in the 2000s.
At the urging of the neighborhood association, Atlanta police stepped up patrols in the hours surrounding Thursday's Falcons-Saints game. City officials said they were evaluating the permits granted and skirted among temporary parking lots outside the Castleberry Hill neighborhood.