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On eve of Madness campout, a look back at last year's

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Beginning on Wednesday, a city of tents will spring up around the Joe Craft Center and Memorial Coliseum in anticipation of the distribution of tickets to Big Blue Madness. Thousands of Kentucky faithful will brave the elements waiting in line for tickets - which will be available on Saturday morning - in one of the most remarkable displays by a group known as one of the most fervent in the nation.

Throughout the three-day campout, we will be providing coverage of the annual event. Our offices on the second floor of the Joe Craft Center are right in the middle in the chaos, so this is the place to go for the best video, photo and written content from one of the most festive lines you'll ever see.

While we await the campout - which begins officially at 7 a.m. on Wednesday - let's take a look at last year's edition:

- The 2011 campout started off with a bang. Before fans could even get in line, they were in formation across the street from Memorial Coliseum. When the clock hit 7 a.m., the race was on. The video below captures the scene.

Now, that video is fun to go back and watch again only because no one got hurt. We at UK Athletics encourage those who will be on campus on Wednesday morning to be much more orderly and safe this time around.

The first day of the campout last year was wet and rainy, but that didn't stop 398 tents from being set up around Memorial by 4 p.m. Fans settling into their temporary homes were treated to a visit by John Calipari earlier in the afternoon. Check out this gallery to see photos of Coach Cal meeting fans and walking around.

The most famous moment of last year's campout happened in the evening on Wednesday when Anthony Davis crossed the street from the old Wildcat Lodge to play some ball on the Blue Courts. The result was the first of many highlight-reel dunks from Davis' lone season at Kentucky.

Thursday - By 9 a.m. on day two, "Tent City" had grown to 445. Day two is also when I witnessed my favorite interaction of the week. Here's an excerpt from my blog post that day:

I had a chance to walk around the campout a bit this morning and mingle with a few people and I overheard a conversation that reminded me just how unique this event is. A woman was passing through the campout on her way to work and she stopped to chat with a camper. It turned out the woman had just moved to Lexington and had absolutely no idea why people were camping out, so she was naturally curious.

She asked the camper why all the tents were set up and he explained they were waiting for tickets to a UK basketball event. The woman responded by asking who UK would be playing and the camper told her it was actually just a practice. Surprised, the woman asked how long everyone had been there. The man said most of the campers had arrived early Wednesday morning. The woman took the answer in stride, but then said, "Wait, you SLEPT out here?"

By late afternoon on Thursday, the tent count was up to 500, virtually assuring that the 2010 record of 525 tents would fall.

Friday - And fall the record did overnight. By 9 a.m. Friday, the tent count climbed to 550. Early in the morning on day two, members of the men's basketball team stopped by the campout bearing breakfast. Here's a shot of Terrence Jones giving a tent full of fans a pleasant wake-up call.

Fans get a pleasantly surprising wake-up call from Terrence Jones, who was handing out McDonald's breakfast to campers. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics
At the final tent count just after the first control cards were handed out to fans at 2 p.m. on Friday, the 2011 campout only added to its record with 570 tents. In my post announcing the record, I wrote the following:

I'd like to call the 2011 total insurmountable, but I know better than to bet against the Big Blue Nation.

The 2012 campout is nearly upon us and I'm certainly glad I opted not to question UK fans. With the forecast for the rest of the week looking close to perfect (highs of 67-79 degrees all three days, zero-percent chance of rain), another record might be about to fall.

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