By BEN ROWE
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Neon hats and celebrity encounters are only a few of Dana Poland and Gary Morette’s Super Bowl XLVIII memories.
They enjoyed an all-expense-paid trip to the game as the winners of a contest held among local PepsiCo-affiliated vendors and food suppliers.
Each company in the area that opened an account with PepsiCo during the last quarter of 2013 was entered into the drawing.
Poland’s entry came with the opening of Dana’s Downtown Grill last December at the former Livingood’s location.
He is also the owner and operator of Dana’s Rusty Anchor on Route 9 and Dana’s Cafe Mooney Bay near Point au Roche in Beekmantown.
Morette is manager of the Downtown Grill.
With no official application process, neither knew he was competing in the contest until the winners were announced.
Poland had often kidded about being rewarded for his longtime support of Pepsi products at his Plattsburgh restaurants.
“I’ve always joked about them giving me a car or a Hummer,” he said.
‘DIDN’T SLEEP MUCH’
Instead, the prize was round-trip airfare to New York City, four nights in the Lexington Hotel, two tickets to the Super Bowl and a $500 cash card to cover any other expenses.
After arriving in the city on the Thursday before the big game, Poland and Morette wasted no time visiting some of the most iconic sights — the ice rink at Rockefeller Center, the World Trade Center Memorial and Radio City Music Hall.
“We crammed as much as we could into five days,” Morette said. “We didn’t sleep much.”
Mixed in with those well-known destinations were some of the city’s smaller bars and restaurants that friends and relatives had recommended.
While visiting the Sea Fire Grill, Morette and Poland happened to look down the bar and realized they were sitting next to actors Sarah Shahi and Steve Howey.
“It was kind of surprising,” Poland said. “They came over and talked to us, bought us a drink, had pictures taken.”
REVENGE IS SWEET
When game day arrived, they were given their tickets and shuttled over to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Although a miscommunication prevented them from gaining access to the official Pepsi tailgate party, there was more than enough to do and souvenirs to buy in the stadium while waiting for the game to begin.
When PepsiCo officials learned about the glitch, they gave Poland a $1,000 American Airlines travel voucher, a gesture that he greatly appreciated.
Morette said he wished the game itself had been more exciting, but Poland said he couldn’t have been happier with the Seahawks runaway victory.
As a New England Patriots fan, Poland was still sore from his team’s defeat by the Denver Broncos earlier in the season and thought of the Super Bowl as revenge for that loss.
“Twelve seconds into the game, and I was like, ‘Yes!’” Poland said with a victorious clap.
The halftime show made up for the lackluster football playing, Morette said. Beyond the music, he said, his favorite part was the glowing hats given to all the audience members, which became part of the stadium’s interactive light show.
“What you saw on TV was nothing compared to what we got to see,” Poland said.
Both Poland and Morette said they couldn’t have been happier with their Super Bowl weekend experience. They emphasized how grateful they were to PepsiCo and local PepsiCo sales representative Jenna Jarvis for making the trip possible.
“Not saying that we’d never go to a Super Bowl, but at the level that we went, through PepsiCo, was tremendous,” Poland said.