Only a dirt and gravel parking lot separates two Cave Creek bars that support each team playing in Super Bowl XLV on Sunday.
That is when the historic desert town's population of 5,000 is expected to double as Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers fans converge for what possibly could be the second-largest Super Bowl party in the nation outside of Dallas where the game will be played.
It will be Danny Piacquadio, owner of Harold's Cave Creek Corral, for the Steelers, and Larry Wendt, owner of the Buffalo Chip Saloon, for the Packers.
The bars, which are in the 6800 block of East Cave Creek Road about 13 miles east of the Loop 101, have shared a friendly rivalry for nearly 25 years. Sunday's game will mark the first Super Bowl appearance for the Packers in 15 years. The Steelers have made Super Bowl appearances for three of the last six years.
Donned in an autographed A.J. Hawk Packers jersey given to him by the linebacker himself, Wendt said, "We've been waiting a long time for this. This will be a good time and a good time for the fans."
Wendt grew up in south Phoenix and bought the bar from former Packers receiver Max McGee who died about two years ago.
Although it remains to be seen which team will come out on top, both dance halls and saloons with a rustic western decor are undisputedly the biggest Steelers and Packers bars in the state.
Perhaps the Coors Light banners hanging from the front of Harold's boast it best: Welcome to Blitzburgh.
Harold's is expecting about 4,000 people; the Buffalo Chip is expecting around 2,000, only a handful more than those on hand Wednesday nights to watch cowboys and cowboy wannabes riding live bulls in the ring behind the back patio known as the Wagon Camp Bar.
As of Thursday morning, Harold's had about 2,600 reservations for Heinz Field West and the Buffalo Chip had 1,360 reservations for what is being called Lambo West.
While Piacquiado was waiting for the delivery of 1,200 hand-made pierogis and kielbasza from Phoenix in honor of Pittsburgh's ethnic neighborhoods for Sunday's bash, Wendt was preparing to pick up 200 pounds of cheese curds to be flown into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport from Racine, Wis., and 700 pounds of lake perch and walleye to be flown in from Lake Victoria, Canada.
That spread, along with Johnsonville brats, will feed the Packers' fans affectionately known as "cheeseheads."
Meanwhile, outside the two establishments, workers trucked in chain-link fences, party tents and portable toilets to handle the anticipated crowd.
While wearing a Steelers cap and jersey and holding onto a Steelers "terrible towel," Piacquadio said, "If more people come, we'll just keep ordering tents."
Both the Packers and Steelers remain two of the league's most storied teams in NFL history, each having a large base of working class fans from their respective cities. Those fans are similar to the patrons that frequented the bars in their early days of business when miners, ranchers and workers building the Bartlett Dam came to Cave Creek to drink, dance and have a good time.
Harold's opened as The Corral in 1935, and the Buffalo Chip opened in 1951 when it was called The Maverick Palace. McGee changed the name of The Maverick to the Buffalo Chip in the early 1980s when he bought it, Wendt said.
Piacquadio's father, Danny, who owned Italian restaurants in Pittsburgh, grew tired of the cold winters there and bought the Corral in 1987.
Both bars also have seen a stream of former Steelers and Packers visit the establishments from time to time, including former Steelers Mel Blount, L.C. Greenwood, Mike Wagner, Andy Russell and Mel Hodge at Harold's and former Packers legends "Fuzzy" Thurston, "White Shoes" Johnson and Bart Starr at the Buffalo Chip.
Piacquadio is predicting a 31-24 Steelers win in a game that will be decided in the last two minutes. Wendt is predicting a 31-23 Packers victory.
Both bars are also competing against each other by holding a food drive on Sunday, asking fans to bring in canned goods and toiletries for the Desert Foothills Food Bank across the street from the bars. The bar with the most canned goods gets to fly its team's flag above the other bar.
"Those are the only cans we want to see kicked," Piacquadio said. "We want everyone who comes to have a good time."
Wendt said, "We're the best football fans in the country, and on Sunday, we're going to prove it."
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