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The lunch counter at Sutton’s Drug Store has hosted plenty of star sightings over the years, but the famous face who came in Wednesday afternoon was considerably shorter than most of the Carolina athletes who stop by.

The Roaming Gnome – best known for his appearance in advertisements for the online travel agency Travelocity – is in town for Saturday’s basketball re-match between Carolina and Duke. He dropped by the Franklin Street establishment for lunch, quickly downing a double bacon cheeseburger, fries and an Oreo milkshake while he posed for pictures with fans.

Travelocity's Roaming Gnome visited Sutton's Drug Store as part of his campus tour in anticipation of Saturday's UNC-Duke basketball game.
Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome visited Sutton’s Drug Store as part of his campus tour in anticipation of Saturday’s UNC-Duke basketball game.
Credit: Rob Holliday

“He’ll be here through Saturday night, and while here, he wants to get a flavor of both communities, both universities and do all the cool things there are to do here in Chapel Hill and Durham,” said Andy Ives, the Roaming Gnome’s official handler and spokesperson.

Travelocity is a sponsor of ESPN’s College Gameday, which will broadcast from Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday. In his role for Travelocity, the Roaming Gnome has witnessed some of college basketball’s most exciting moments this season, making his way to match-ups in Syracuse, N.Y., East Lansing, Mich., and Lexington, Ky. Last weekend, he traveled to Stillwater, Okla., to “watch” Oklahoma State beat Kansas.

“He’s certainly a basketball fan now, whereas before he was just a casual observer,” Ives said. “At the beginning of the season, he was reading ‘College Basketball for Dummies’ because he didn’t really get it.”

Now that The Roaming Gnome knows hoops, he plans to tour Carolina’s campus on Thursday afternoon and has his sights set on a meeting with Rameses.

“We encourage people who meet him on the street, to take a photo with him, find him on Twitter and Instagram and tag their posts,” Ives said. “He might just say something back.”

As for his prediction about who wins Saturday, Ives said The Roaming Gnome is staying neutral.

“It’s really hard for him to take sides in a battle because he just loves a good game,” Ives said. “Having seen so many good games this season, he’s looking forward to another one this Saturday.”

Follow @RoamingGnome on Instagram and Twitter and interact with #UNCvsDuke on Twitter for more information about the game and the traveling garden ornament’s visit. Tweet your pictures with The Roaming Gnome at @Carolina_News.

By Rob Holliday, UNC News Services

Published March 5, 2014