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Beer Grandma: Now you see her, now you ... might?

UND officials never issued a firm "directive" or requirement for the Ralph Engelstad Arena to stop spotlighting Beer Grandma, who has become a fan favorite at Fighting Sioux hockey games, a university spokesman said today.

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

UND officials never issued a firm "directive" or requirement for the Ralph Engelstad Arena to stop spotlighting Beer Grandma, who has become a fan favorite at Fighting Sioux hockey games, a university spokesman said today.

But REA general manager Jody Hodgson said UND president Robert Kelley did bring up the issue about a year and a half ago.

Northwood, N.D., resident Beth Delano, 85, became a local celebrity in early 2009 when cameras panning the REA crowd before a game caught her with a beer in hand. That led to a Facebook group, frequent appearances on the scoreboard and even a part in a commercial for the university's continuing education department.

Hodgson said Kelley brought up Beer Grandma and asked that the arena "consider the request" not to show her during games.

"It wasn't a huge deal to him, but he said he would prefer if we didn't show her with a beer in her hand or we didn't highlight her, so to speak, on the video board," he said.

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Peter Johnson, associate vice president for university relations, said there was never a firm "decision" or "dictate" to stop highlighting Delano at games.

"It's true the president did talk to Jody about a year and a half ago," he said. "It's not like this was a new thing."

Johnson told the Herald on Monday that the suggestion came up as a way to take the focus off Delano and highlight other students and fans at home games.

But another part of it was an attempt to move away from the "reputation" the university has gained from national rankings as a school with a high rate of student drinking.

Hodgson said since the conversation, the REA has made "no conscious effort" not to show Delano.

She has appeared on the scoreboard since that talk, Hodgson said. And camera crews inside the arena have actively looked for her -- but couldn't find her -- to show her on the scoreboard during some games this season.

Hodgson said there has been no further discussion about Delano, or any recent talks about changing the way the arena handles Beer Grandma.

But Hodgson said the buzz about this topic after an article was published in Tuesday's Herald means it is probably time for arena officials and Kelley to talk again.

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"I think it's important that there be communication between the university and the REA on the issue," he said. "As business partners in the athletics enterprise, whatever the situation is, I think it's important to make sure we're on the same page moving forward."

Johnson said he expects Kelley and Hodgson will talk about the issue again.

"If Jody wants to have that conversation, I'm sure the president would like to revisit the conversation," he said. "But it's not in the top 10 issues that are affecting the future of the University of North Dakota. I'd say it's a very minor kind of thing."

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

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