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BLOOMINGTON “ Every year about this time, Michelle Whitehouse starts seeing taco trays, jars of homemade salsa and 50-piece fried chicken buckets in her sleep.

The Cub Foods deli manager counts herself a veteran of annual Super Bowl feeding frenzies. She tripled her orders of Shaw's homemade salsa to 60 containers. On Saturday, Whitehouse will rub deli elbows with an extra fry cook and an added tray assembler.

It seems food, drink and parties go hand in hand with football. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend $5.3 billion on parties and all the trappings.

"Even if you are not a football fan, it seems the Super Bowl game makes a great reason to get together with family and friends. A Super Bowl party always includes food, and it's good for sales, especially pizza, potato chips, cheese, crackers and soft drinks," said Mark Steffen, co-owner of Dave's Supermarket in Fairbury.

Chris Cutler, owner of Budget Liquors in Normal, went so far as to liken Super Bowl Sunday to a national holiday. He usually sees a significant increase in sales of keg beer and 20- or 30-packs for the occasion.

"It's a pretty good weekend for us, but it's not the busiest Sunday. Being on campus (Illinois State University), our busiest Sundays are right before school starts," said Cutler.

At Bloomington's Famous Liquors, beer and liquor sales spike 25 percent to 30 percent for the big game. Wine manager Aaron Storm said sales started to pick up Thursday. Bud Light and Miller Light typically prove top sellers.

Pizza places also expect booming business. Veronica Smiley, manager of the Empire Street Pizza Hut, scheduled an extra cook and driver for the day.

"Deliveries will be up 25 percent. We're staffing it as if it were a Saturday," said Bob Griffith, manager of the Eldorado Street Monical's. "We'll have five or six additional employees for the kitchen, the phones and delivery."

Bars and restaurants also expect to profit from the Super Bowl. Beth O'Rourke, Schooners bartender, said employees have been taking chicken wing orders all week. She expects the bar to be packed Sunday for the game. Take-out wing orders weighing 10 pounds and 20 pounds will be "crazy."

"For us, the Super Bowl ranks right there with St. Patrick's Day," said O'Rourke.

With 52 big screen TVs, Brett Nelson expects to see a crowd form around mid-afternoon Sunday at Buffalo Wild Wings on Bloomington's east side. It's the first Super Bowl for the restaurant, which opened last Valentine's Day.

"I anticipate a full house. We saw Steeler fans during the season and a few Seahawk fans. We'll have four more people in the kitchen Sunday. We've already taken a couple of party platter orders for four and five platters each. The platters feed five or six people," said Nelson.

Some celebrants have decided to find larger digs for their party.

A group of Mitsubishi Motors North America United Auto Workers members will conduct their second veterans' benefit at the Elks Lodge in downtown Bloomington at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Elks manager Tammy DePasse said the lodge donates the space. Her kitchen staff will prepare hot wings, silver dollar sandwiches, franks and meatballs.

"We're expecting 200 or 300 people. Anyone can come. It's free. They're selling raffle tickets for a big screen TV. They're bringing in two big screens, and one will stay," said DePasse, noting tickets are available at the Elks Lodge in advance. There's no admission fee.


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