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UND: No more spotlight on 'Beer Grandma'

Beer Grandma's time in the spotlight at UND hockey games is over, but she has no hard feelings about returning to her role as just another Fighting Sioux fan in the crowd.

Beth Delano
Longtime Sioux hockey fan Beth Delano of Northwood is a crowd favorite at Ralph Engelstad Arena after her image appeared on the big screen in the arena sipping a beer. Herald photo by Eric Hylden

Beer Grandma's time in the spotlight at UND hockey games is over, but she has no hard feelings about returning to her role as just another Fighting Sioux fan in the crowd.

Beth Delano, 85, became a local celebrity in early 2009 when Fighting Sioux Sports Network cameras panning the crowd before a game caught her with a beer in hand. It wasn't long before she became the Ralph Engelstad Arena's unofficial "Beer Grandma." She had her own Facebook group and appeared in commercials for the university.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said President Robert Kelley recently decided to take the focus off Delano as a way of highlighting other students and fans at home games.

But he said the main reason is to not feed into the reputation the university has gained from recent national rankings as a school with a high rate of student drinking.

Delano said her popularity as the unofficial arena cheerleader was "always fun." But now that university officials have told her it's "a new time," she said she's ready to step out of the spotlight.


"That was simply a matter of they have so much on their plate about the Sioux name and the beer drinking and they're working hard to get a new conference together," she said. "President Kelley thought that I had done enough advertising for them."

'Good experience'

Delano, a grandmother of five and a great-grandmother of six children, said she first started going to UND hockey games "in the old barn" in 1947 with her late husband, Robert.

"My husband and I lived in Grand Forks, we both went to the university, and we were hockey fans before they had teams to play against really," she said. "It's a long-time hockey association for me and I love the game."

They moved to Northwood, N.D., in 1953 when Robert Delano became a doctor at the former Northwood Deaconess Hospital and clinic.

The Delanos remained loyal Fighting Sioux fans, and she continued to frequent home games after her husband passed away from cancer in 1999.

After being just one among the crowd for more than 50 years, Delano launched to local stardom when the arena's cameras caught her sipping a beer a friend bought her during a 2009 game.

"I was the one that was caught on the screen, so I guess I deserved what I got," she said. "Most of that was a very good experience. I'm a big fan and it's been a good part of my life."


After rising to fame, Delano was tapped to help advertise the university's continuing education department, which includes distance and online learning options. She also frequently appeared on the Engelstad Arena scoreboard during games, with the crowd chanting "Beer Grandma!" whenever she would make a cameo.

A Facebook group was soon created to express the fans' love and show off photos of excited UND students posing next to their "Beer Grandma."

"I think the thing was everybody was so nice about it, except one or two of my friends in Northwood that were my age and didn't think rooting for beer was a great thing," she said. "For the most part, it was just a positive experience."

No 'dictate'

Johnson said Kelley spoke with Engelstad Arena officials earlier this year and "asked them to focus more on other folks" to take the spotlight off Delano. He said with about 13,000 people packing the arena during games, there are other people and other cheers to highlight.

"It's not like it's a dictate," he said. "But I do think the president is hoping that there will be even greater attention on some of the students and some of the other community members."

But Johnson said the main reason is to move UND away from the "bit of a reputation" it has earned in recent years.

The Princeton Review ranks colleges nationally each year based on several factors. The latest report, released in August, ranked UND No. 1 among colleges where students surveyed report they study the least.


In 2009, UND ranked No. 15 for students who drink the most alcohol and No. 18 among party schools.

"We're anxious to showcase other aspects of the university," Johnson said. "We think that those rankings have not been entirely accurate, so we're interested in showcasing things that don't add to that image and shift away that focus on alcohol consumption."

Delano still attends games, usually Friday and giving away her Saturday tickets to friends. She did get the chance to enjoy a beer with friends during a game this season.

She said people still recognize her as "Beer Grandma" from time to time -- though she prefers it when they call her "Beer Lady."

Delano said she misses the cheering and applause she would draw just by appearing on the scoreboard. But she said UND officials are right and that it is "time to move on and have something else."

"People were just always gracious and generous," she said. "When you're my age and in my generation, in fact, you don't get that kind of attention very often."

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send email to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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