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Ryan Johnson / Forum Communications Co., Published December 23 2010

In its final holiday season, Sioux gear flies off the shelves

GRAND FORKS – Seth Lothspeich had one goal for his visit this week to the Ralph Engelstad Arena’s Sioux Shop: “spending as much money as I can.”

The 28-year-old who grew up in Grand Forks but now lives in Bismarck said it wasn’t his first shopping spree to load up on Fighting Sioux merchandise before it becomes a thing of the past.

“I’ve probably spent $1,000 here in the last year,” he said. “I’ll keep spending a little bit here and there, buying jerseys, baby clothes, anything that can be used for years down the road.”

Lothspeich and other diehard UND fans have spent much of the year stocking up on everything from sweatshirts and hats to hitch covers and carafes. If it’s adorned with the Fighting Sioux image, it’s in high demand this holiday season, Sioux Shop Manager Jason Carlson said.

“It has to have the logo,” Carlson said. “And if you look across the store today, pretty much everything in the store has the logo in some way, shape or form on it.”

But that will soon change, and a series of deadlines related to the university’s transition away from the 80-year-old nickname and logo means this will be the last holiday season to buy official Fighting Sioux gear.

“Christmas is always busy, but this year, I hear a lot more stories,” Carlson said. “Stories like, ‘Oh, I need to get this for my niece in Colorado because she has to have something Sioux.’ I think that thought is there and the public is thinking that.”

In October, UND stopped approving designs for new merchandise bearing the logo or nickname. It’s one part of the university’s transition away from its Fighting Sioux nickname, which must be retired by Aug. 15, 2011.

Items and apparel approved earlier this year still can be manufactured until June 30, and officials expect the gear will be off store shelves soon after the deadline.

“There’s no freeze on the timeline for selling this merchandise,” said UND spokesman Peter Johnson. “But our hope would be that retailers would work with us to phase that out as soon as possible after June 30.”

Carlson said that impending deadline has made for an interesting mix of casual fans and lifelong Fighting Sioux supporters looking to buy whatever they can before the merchandise becomes a thing of the past.

One man who visited the Sioux Shop told Carlson he wanted to buy 20 of the same hat – that way, he could have a new Fighting Sioux hat each year for the next 20 years.

Carlson even helped a forward-thinking UND student who wanted to cover all the bases.

“She bought a bunch of baby clothing,” he said. “She wasn’t married or anything, but she told us it was for her future children. I guess everybody takes it to a different level.”

Johnson writes for the Grand Forks Herald