MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’ve been planning for years, and now the Final Four men’s college basketball championship is on. And with the teams in town, fans of Virginia, Michigan State, Auburn and Texas Tech are arriving as well.

In the spirit of things, even Mary Tyler Moore’s famous likeness is decorated for the big event. And you know that when even statues are getting into the act, something special’s afoot.

Friday kicks off a weekend of hoops and fun. Downtown Minneapolis is all dressed up to party.

Beginning Friday, fans can watch free team practices over at U.S. Bank Stadium, and later, cheer on the college all-stars. Admission is completely free.

Fan Fest has something for everyone at the Minneapolis Convention Center. For $10, you can take in all kinds of games, autograph sessions and pep rallies. Workers put the finishing touches on today.

“I think I’d like to see Michigan State win it. They’ve been real strong since winning the Big 10 tournament. I am a Villanova fan but done for now so I’m gonna call Michigan State,” fan Tyler Dinwoodie said.

He’s in from Vancouver, taking in his third Final Four. For now he’ll stroll Nicollet Mall’s Tip-Off Tailgate. That’s where to find free music, interviews and the big Ferris wheel.

Fan Fest at the Convention Center opens at 11 a.m. on Friday. Admission is $10 for adults but free to kids 12 and under.

Bill Hudson