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Final Thursday tent count nears 530

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There's just not much green left on the lawn surrounding Memorial Coliseum. Fans seeking tickets to Big Blue Madness 2012 have packed as close to every square foot of grass from Rose Street to Lexington Avenue. The result is a mass campout still on track to break last year's record.

As of 4:30 p.m. on Thursday - the second day of the annual Madness campout - the tent count is up to approximately 527. The growth of "Tent City" slowed a bit, as 18 new tents were set up since the last official count at 9:30 a.m.

Even so, this year's tent count is nearly 30 ahead of the pace of the 2011 edition - which would end up with a record 570 tents. As a reference, 50 new tents popped up on Thursday night and early Friday morning last year.

For those debating making the trip to campus, there is still plenty of room for more tents in the overflow area at Stoll Field. Nearly 100 tents have already been set up there, but that's still one of the few spots around Memorial with grass to spare.

While you await our next official count first thing on Friday morning, I recommend you read Ryan Suckow's story from the campout about the Big Blue Nation traveling far and wide to attend this unique event. Here's an excerpt:

If there's anything to learn about the Big Blue Nation, it's that its limits reach far and beyond the boundaries of the Bluegrass.

Teressa Steinbergen is camping out for the ninth consecutive year. Nine years. In a row. And where is she from? Jeffersonville, Ind. But it only took one trip to Lexington to reel her in.

"I went to my first Big Blue Madness nine years ago and I was set," said Steinbergen. "I saw the tradition and family atmosphere and I was set. I've been a fan ever since then."

The family atmosphere is one of the most unique qualities of the Madness campout as Kentucky fans of all sorts come together for one common passion. For Steinbergen, it's that experience that truly makes Big Blue Madness special.

"(I prefer) camping out. I do," said Steinbergen. "(My family) like(s) Madness better, but I like good people and the good atmosphere and the chants, 'Go Big Blue,' and it's just all awesome to me."

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