ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Where else did Bills Mafia want to be Friday night than Highmark Stadium for the Blue and Red practice?

Thousands flocked to Orchard Park for a first look at the team on their home turf. This practice is always a preseason fan favorite with many traveling from far and wide to be in Western New York, cheering on their team.

“It’s a Western New York tradition. We are hoping for a great year this year. We want to go to the Super Bowl,” Connie Piccolo from Silver Creek said.

The streets were packed with traffic, the lots were filled with tailgaters and the stadium was packed with the Bills Mafia ready to see their team, including Bonnie Allen, who traveled to Buffalo from Arkansas.

“It’s just amazing. It really is. Ever since my niece told me what we were going to be doing, I have been so excited. I really have,” Allen said.

Other fans say they are grateful the team is back because the players represent the city on the biggest stage.

“Buffalo embodies the Bills because it is perpetual hope and hope for the future and hope for better days. As we see the city reviving and coming together, I think the Bills are a symbol of all of that for us,” Bill Petri of Cheektowaga added.

Fans walking in at Gate 2 were anxious to see the players they cheer for every week, especially Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Allen walked out of the tunnel wearing a royal blue helmet, which caused quite a stir on social media. He’s no stranger to making a fashion statement like this. At the 2022 Blue and Red practice, Allen wore a red helmet while walking out of the tunnel.

“It’s something we look forward to from the minute it ends to the minute it starts. Just excited to be apart of it and get a chance to see where they can go this year,” Adam Kinney of Niagara Falls said.

It has been 194 days without football in the Southtowns and fans were most interested to see how the team has grown since January.

“I want to see how the rookies do against the vets and mainly the defense. We gotta work on that defense,” Justin Hall of Buffalo said.

As fans shared their thoughts, hopes and dreams for the upcoming season, pretty much everyone agrees that this is the Bills’ year to bring the Lombardi trophy to One Bills Drive.

“I think we’re going to win the Super Bowl. I think this is the year,” Lisa Tymorek of Arcade added.

The Bills return to St. John Fisher University on Sunday for more preseason practice and then the team will take the field next Saturday afternoon at Highmark Stadium for its preseason debut against the Indianapolis Colts. Coverage for that game starts at 12:30 p.m. on News 4.

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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.