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Tailgating gets trashy, but nothing out of the norm, officials say

Tailgating for UND's homecoming football game Saturday got trashy, literally.

Fans celebrated in the Alerus Center parking lot ahead of the Fighting Hawks game against Idaho State during the Potato Bowl. Tailgating is a typical event for UND football held in the parking lot just south of the arena.

And across the pavement, beer boxes, broken glass and aluminum bottles could be seen scattered about. One group of people tipped over a table full of trash onto the parking lot before packing up to leave.

"As far as comparison, that's pretty typical, unfortunately," Alerus Center General Manager Anna Rosburg said of the amount of trash in the parking lot. "When attendance goes up, I think the trash goes up, but it was nothing out of the norm for football games."

The Potato Bowl and homecoming tend to attract large crowds. Last year, the Potato Bowl sold out with 12,342, UND Associate Athletic Director Kyle Doperalski said in an email. This year, more than 11,000 people attended the game.

The city expected Saturday's game to be well-attended since it was homecoming and Potato Bowl, said LeahRae Amundson, public works operations director for the city of Grand Forks. Her department supplies trash bins for the Alerus Center.

The Alerus Center hires a third-party company to pick up the trash after tailgating, Rosburg said. That usually takes several hours, but once the garbage is in the bins, city workers collect the containers and haul them away, Amundson said.

"It's kind of a coordinated effort, just like any other event," she said.

This year, the city gave the Alerus Center about double the trash containers it usually supplies for football games, Amundson said, admitting there probably could have been more.

"It's kind of a live and learn, and that was a big one," she said. "It's like anything. You try to predict and make judgements."

The Grand Forks Police Department can fine those who litter $500, according to state and local law. Officers are present for security and traffic flow, Lt. Derik Zimmel said. Officers were more focused on keeping fans safe than issuing littering fines.

Typically, the Police Department doesn't have problems with football fans, but Saturday's crowd was "a little bit more of a challenge," he said.

"In this particular case, we actually had to have all officers that were posted out there come out to push the crowd out of the tailgating area at kickoff, which is not what we normally need to do," he said.

The challenge came from a small portion of the crowd, he said.

Two people were cited for underage drinking, and another person was arrested for disorderly conduct. Zimmel said officers did a good job at keeping fans safe, adding he was unaware of injuries.

Despite the trash and the loss to Idaho State, Rosburg said homecoming/Potato Bowl events, including tailgating, were "highly successful." UND lost the game 21-25.

"The game was well-attended," she said. "We didn't have any major incidents. I think overall, it was a successful event."

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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