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Maureen McMullen, Published December 07 2013

Tradition trumps temps for Bison tailgaters

FARGO - When it comes to Bison football, weather is a non-issue for tailgater Craig Mitchell.

Mitchell made the road trip to Kansas for the Bison’s season opener in August, when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees.

With temperatures hovering at about 16 degrees below zero Saturday morning, the frigid conditions didn’t deter Mitchell and his crew from tailgating for the home game against Furman University.

“We have a saying,” said Pat Odegaard, who manned a large grill with Mitchell. “There’s no bad weather, only bad gear.”

Like most of Saturday’s Bison tailgaters, Mitchell and Odegaard’s crew came prepared for the intense cold.

“We’ve got a lot of heaters inside (our tent),” Mitchell said. “We’ve got some coffee, maybe some other alternative beverages, and we’ve got great gear.”

Subzero temperatures are enough to keep most people inside at all costs, but Odegaard said it’s their passion for Bison football that pushes them to brave the weather – whether or not the game is a victory.

“This team has given us a lot of satisfaction, especially over the last year, so whatever happens from here is a bonus,” said Odegaard.

For many Bison fans, the tradition of tailgating trumps nasty weather.

“A lot of us are alumni and went to the games throughout growing up, too,” said Sarah Bruns of Fargo. “Now, we’re just supporting them on the other end.”

Bruns said she’s been tailgating for Bison football since 2000. She even earned a spot as The Forum’s “Tailgater of the Week” with her family’s tailgating team, Bubba’s Herd.

With a brand-new heater and plenty of hot chili, Bubba’s Herd said their tent is a popular stop for other wandering tailgaters to warm up.

“We tend to make friends here,” Bruns said.

The Fargodome’s tailgating lot buzzed Saturday with this sort of camaraderie among the 20 or so tents set up.

Along the rows of steaming grills, tailgaters are quick to offer food, hot drinks and a place to warm up. For many Bison fans, this sense of community is a key factor in tailgating through the frigid temperatures.

“It’s something you’d have to come witness,” said Charlie Cooper of Fargo. “For a school of our size, we really represent well.”

Even with temperatures cold enough to freeze through his mug of beer within a few minutes, Cooper didn’t seem discouraged by the cold.

“There’s a lot of guys who come out rain or shine, snow, cold, it doesn’t matter,” said Cooper. “You’ve just got to prepare a little more.”