At 6:30 p.m. ET, there was already a line down the block.
When video images showed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell taking the stage at 8 p.m., the excitement grew.
And a little after 10 p.m., when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn with the 20th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, a crowded West Club Lounge at Raymond James Stadium erupted in cheers.
Those scenes were among the many satisfying ones at Thursday's Official Draft Party Presented by Miller Lite, where Buccaneers faithful arrived early and stayed late in celebration of another very important draft for the franchise.
The stadium welcomed a large collection of Bucs fanatics for the annual party, which has become a popular April destination for fans of all ages.
"This is a fun group," said Jessica Jones of Tampa, early in the evening. "People here are really into football, really into the draft. I'm excited to see what will happen. It's going to be a long night, but it's going to be fun."
For the second consecutive year, the event was held on Thursday evening to coincide with the prime-time scheduling of the draft's first round. Despite the later time slot, fans showed up in droves to take part.
"This is a good experience each time that I come here," said St. Petersburg's Ali Perry, who was attending for the third year in a row. "It's a wonderful experience to get to break down everything, to have a good time and watch how everything comes along."
Hundreds of supporters filled the stadium's West Club in their favorite Buccaneer attire, enjoying reduced-price concessions, exclusive merchandise sales and free beer samples for patrons 21 and older. Once again, Pewter Partner Miller Lite played host.
"We were really excited to be able to partner with the Buccaneers on an event such as this where we can really target our consumers and help all the Buccaneers fan celebrate draft day," said Yaidi Clery, sales marketing manager for MillerCoors. "It's our first big event of the football season, and every year we look forward to it, kicking off with a great draft party and getting excited about the upcoming season."
A number of former Buccaneers were on hand to help the franchise welcome in its newest player, including Mike Alstott, Dave Moore, Richard "Batman" Wood and Jerry Wunsch. Buccaneers cheerleaders also greeted guests and signed autographs, while a live broadcast from the Buccaneers Radio Network provided on-site analysis and interviews. Over the airwaves, attendees heard from Head Coach Raheem Morris, General Manager Mark Dominik, and even Clayborn, following his selection at No. 20.
The festive scene proved to be an enjoyable environment for rookie attendees and draft party veterans.
"I think it's excellent," said Miller. "I was here last year, and I brought my nephew with me this year. It's just wonderful; he's enjoying himself too, being inside the stadium. He's been here a few times, but not actually in the club, so it's really good."
As fans watched the remainder of the first round unfold on the high definition video walls, the excitement for next season continued to grow with the addition of Clayborn.
For the Buccaneers' newest addition, the anticipation is all his.
"I'm excited that I'm a Buc, and I'm excited that it has all worked out," said Clayborn.