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The Go Guide Places, people and life with Ben Crandell

Watch-party showdown: Gators vs. Seminoles on Clematis Street

When fans of Florida State Seminoles football arrive at their official game-day hangout in downtown West Palm Beach on Saturday for FSU’s season-defining game against the Alabama Crimson Tide, they will find a special guest near the front door: Albert, the toothy mascot of the arch rival Florida Gators.

After a decade scheduling watch parties up Clematis Street at Roxy’s Pub, the Palm Beach County Gator Club has moved its official gatherings for the 2017 season to Dorrian’s Red Hand, beginning with Saturday’s high-profile game against the University of Michigan. Dorrian’s (215 Clematis St.) happens to share a wall with Grease Burger Bar (213 Clematis St.), where the Seminoles hold their watch parties.

This was no accident.

Gator Club board member Chris Savery, who organizes events and fundraisers for the organization’s scholarship efforts for under-privileged students, says that Dorrian’s offers more space and larger TVs, but proximity to the Seminoles was a huge selling point.

“Grease has a ton of energy, and they bring a great crowd, blasting their fight songs. It’s a hostile Seminole environment, and that was actually one of the big reasons why we moved,” Savery says. “We wanted to be right next to them. We wanted to show them, hey, the Gators are back. We can be just as big and just as rowdy.”

Savery expects about 150 Gator fans at Dorrian’s for the 3:30 p.m. Michigan game, which will be winding down as FSU fans are arriving at Grease for the Seminoles’ 7 p.m. telecast.

The 35-year-old Savery, Florida class of 2007 and a resident of downtown West Palm Beach, doesn’t think many Seminoles are aware the Gators have moved in next door.

“They’ve always seen us at Roxy’s down the road and, yeah, I think they’re going to be shocked and kind of excited,” he says. “We’re going to have all the flags outside and a 7-foot [inflatable] mascot of Albert. The whole bar will be filled with everyone in orange and blue. There will be no mistaking us.”

After the Florida game is over (Savery predicts a 20-17 Gator win), the TVs at Dorrian’s will switch to the FSU-Alabama game (a 23-20 FSU loss, he says). Despite all the smack talk that may ensue on Saturday, Savery expects a positive vibe. Many Gators and Noles are friends, he says, and FSU fans should feel encouraged to come over to Dorrian’s, if for no other reason than to share their mutual hatred of the Miami Hurricanes.

As big as Saturday’s games are for the two schools, nothing will match the Nov. 25 Thanksgiving Weekend showdown between the Gators and Seminoles in Gainesville. Savery hopes to turn the national telecast into a big block party hosted by supporters of each school.

“We haven’t beaten them in a while, and we’re feeling confident that this is the year that we’ll get the W,” he says. “We want to be right next to them for it.”

bcrandell@sun-sentinel.com

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