With the San Francisco 49ers advancing to the conference championship Sunday and a Super Bowl appearance now possible, the red-and-gold faithful are starting to rally.
"The energy has picked up for the championship game, and Thursday it just boomed," said Erik Lavin at the All Sports apparel store in Santa Rosa Plaza.
And if you were to guess that quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the 49er the fans are most clamoring for, as evidenced by jersey sales, you would be correct. No. 7 jerseys, at $100 to $250, are flying off the shelves.
"He is the starting quarterback, he is the new 'it' thing," said Felicia Sandoval, manager of the Sports Fan at Coddingtown, where a single Kaepernick jersey, size large, was still on the rack Thursday.
Sandoval said jerseys are the most popular purchase, with Aldon Smith, Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree following Kaepernick in demand.
Some local fans also are making the trek to Atlanta to see the game in person.
Die-hard fan and season ticket holder Amy Chapman, a Santa Rosa attorney, is among those, finding a flight to Atlanta and game ticket online.
"I was hoping we would get a home game, and when Seattle went up I thought we would, and than Atlanta came back," Chapman said, referring to the Seahawks and Falcons game last week that decided which team would play the 49ers and where.
"I was bummed I couldn't go to the game, then I hopped online and it wasn't that expensive to go," Chapman said. "There are still over 5,000 tickets available on StubHub."
Fred Vasquez of Windsor is going with his son, Pete Vasquez of Santa Rosa, but their allegiances are split.
Fred is a lifelong 49er fan and season ticket holder, while Pete turned into a Falcons fan while following the career of Michael Vick.
"This is a once in a lifetime for them," said Yolanda Vasquez, Fred's wife. "They are just pumped and excited to see this game in Atlanta. Who knows when they get to play each other again?"
The 49ers at noon Sunday play the Atlanta Falcons for the conference championship and the right to play in the Super Bowl.
It would cap a season marked by a team with a stifling defense, and an unflappable rookie quarterback who has emerged as the team leader, showing an uncanny ability to run as well as pass.
Sports bar owners, of course, are thrilled.
"I love the bandwagon," said Armand Ausiello, owner of Ausiello's Fifth Street Grill in Santa Rosa.
Ausiello said he expects a crowd, but that is not unusual. His bar is crowded whenever the 49ers and San Francisco Giants are in the playoffs.
And Ausiello will take his usual place at the end of the bar.
"Not that I am superstitious, but I stand on those two tiles and watch the games on that TV," Ausiello said. "Not that I'm superstitious, but it's part of the game."
Frank Kibbish, owner of The Forest bar in Ukiah, spent $104 on pennants, decals and flags at All Sports for decorations in anticipation of Sunday's game.
"The fever has definitely increased," Kibbish said. "With (Coach Jim) Harbaugh and Kaepernick, there has been a huge jump in interest. He's definitely creating some buzz."
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