Bands, banners, balloons and cheerleaders helped Northwestern University and the City of Evanston drum up excitement this evening for Saturday’s “Evanston Day” football game at Ryan Field.

About 250 people turned out at Independence Park on Central Street to greet Willie the Wildcat … 

and cheer Coach Pat Fizgerald and his team captains as he talked about their strategy for the home opener against Eastern Illinois.

NU President Morton Schapiro said he’d planned to give a present to Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl — but that his lawyers told him he couldn’t, because she’s a politician.

But Tisdahl, in a purple cap and t-shirt, didn’t seem to mind, knowing that a big turnout for the game means more ticket tax revenue for the city.

In addition to the NU Marching band, the rally also gave Evanston Township High School’s marching band a chance to perform.

And despite threatening skies, only a few raindrops fell — which did nothing to dampen spirits.

Discount tickets to Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game are available for Evanston residents who enter the promotion code “PURPLE” at the NUSports.com website.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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