As college football's Bowl Championship Series continues, one group of Columbia County students will find themselves in the center of the spotlight during the festivities.
The Evans competition cheerleaders will participate in the Nokia Sugar Bowl's halftime show Monday.
"This is one of the biggest things I've done," Evans senior captain Kayla Wheatley said. "We've never done anything this important. It's an honor just to be asked."
The Sugar Bowl, normally held in New Orleans, will take place in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta this year because of continuing reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina.
Evans cheerleading coach Kelly Garnto said the squad was to leave Saturday and spend the weekend in Atlanta rehearsing for Monday night's game.
"So far the girls have only been able to practice with a DVD of the routine," Garnto said. "They're very excited. Once they get there they might be nervous, but they'll be ready."
According to Garnto, the girls couldn't have made it this far without the help of area businesses and fans. The squad was required to raise $6,000 to pay for hotel, food, transportation and other expenses related to the three-day trip.
She said several donations came in from local families and businesses, and a Nov. 28 dinner was crucial in reaching their financial goal.
"The Carrabbas dinner was a great fund-raiser," Garnto said. "They surprised us that night by announcing they were donating 100 percent of the proceeds to us. We were shocked and very appreciative."
When the NCAA college football regular season was complete, the girls got another surprise. Among the eight BCS bowl-eligible teams, the SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs were selected to play in the Nokia Sugar Bowl against Big East champion West Virginia.
"Everybody wants to Georgia to win," said Garnto, who normally is a Florida State fan. "When we heard they were going to play in the Sugar Bowl, that made it even better."
Although the game will be televised on ABC, Greg Blackwell, the director of communications for the Nokia Sugar Bowl, said "only snippets of the halftime show" would be televised.
Senior captain Katie Osborne said the show is a tribute to New Orleans and will feature the song When the Saints Go Marching In, among others.
"It's a little different because we have to learn two parts," Osborne said. "When we learn routines we don't have long to learn them. We're trained to catch on easily."
The girls also were to participate in the Nokia Sugar Bowl Parade on New Year's Eve in Atlanta beginning at 7 p.m.
The Nokia Sugar Bowl kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Monday.
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