By Alexandra Hudson
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Cape Town's Table Mountain awed visitors with its serenity Wednesday, while in the city below piercing vuvuzela blasts rang out, wild celebrations stopped traffic and hawkers jostled to sell shirts and flags.
Nestled between the mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town, or the "Mother City" is South Africa's most visited city, and said to be the country's most beautiful.
Locals also want it to be the biggest party city, knowing its stunning scenery, winelands and laid-back mood are sure to attract fans from around the world.
"As South Africa's "Mother City" we want this to be the place with the most atmosphere, the most beauty," said 33-year-old Igshaan Hendrix, doing a fast trade in vuvuzelas and wigs at his stand close to the fan zone that will hold up to 25,000 people.
Dizzy excitement descended at noon as locals poured on to the streets to blow vuvuzelas and dance, giving themselves a "warm up" for a month of football and festivity.
"I feel so emotional, I never expected anything like this," said 26-year-old Cape Town student Sarah Trent, one of hundreds dancing at a busy crossroads in the city's business district.
"Cape Town is a party city. We are very festive, and I hope people will see that side of us here at the World Cup."
Residents had been encouraged to toot their vuvuzelas at noon, part of a warm-up orchestrated by local media, to crank up the excitement before the fan fest viewing area opens with a concert Thursday night.
Workers clad in South Africa shirts gathered outside their office buildings, others appeared on roofs and terraces, and upper floor windows slid open to reveal the ubiquitous plastic horns, as an impromptu street party broke out.
"Without doubt this will be an incredible month," said 53-year-old financial services executive Eddie Douglas.
"People have been looking forward to this for so long and I've never seen an atmosphere like this here before."
"I want the world to see that we do things differently here, and that when South Africans celebrate they really go for it," said Katlego Makgoane, a 22-year old student, and diehard Bafana Bafana fan who will watch games at the fan fest.
Flinging her shoulders back, she pointed her vuvuzela to the sky and blew with all her might. "My cheeks are so sore! How am I going to keep this up?," she smiled.
Besides the central public viewing site fans will be able to stroll along a 2.5 kilometer fan walk, and watch the matches from Cape Town's famed waterfront.
South Africa's yellow football shirts dominate in the city for now, but visitors are starting to flow in, with any foreign flag or shirt attracting smiles and handshakes from locals.
At Cape Town's Green Market Square, a traditional African craft market, stall holders have moved masks, carved animals and beaded jewelry to make way for flags and vuvuzelas.
"It is a great party atmosphere here. I'm hoping South Africa win their games to keep up the excitement," said stall holder Jeff Omondi, originally from Kenya.
(Editing by Nigel Hunt)