Skies were overcast and temperatures were a bit cool, but that didn’t chill the hopes of UND fans who gathered at a watch party Saturday at the Columbia Mall parking lot near the former Macy’s store.
“It’s a little cool, but it’s tailgating weather,” said Matt Walkowiak, owner of Ground Round, one of the event sponsors.
Members of the crowd -- many dressed in UND green or gray Fighting Hawk sweatshirts -- braved the mid-50s temperatures to witness, on a 10-by-20-foot screen, the anticipated football matchup between the UND and North Dakota State University. The contest, broadcast from the Gate City Bank Field before a packed Fargodome, was a non-conference game that rekindled the old rivalry between the two universities.
North Dakota State won the game, 38-7.
The Columbia Mall, Ground Round and Scheels hosted the event, which featured live music, food, drinks, games and bouncy houses for the kids. A large canopy covered the bandstand and an area where fans could take shelter and hear music by groups that included Kenny and the Classics and the Town and Country Band.
In 2015, the Ground Round had hosted a similar event in its parking lot, Walkowiak said.
“We had such a good turnout -- nearly 1,000 people -- we decided we’d go to a bigger space,” he said. “This is better.”
Nick and Cheryl Rasmussen, of Moorhead, Minn., came to the event “to see the North Dakota teams going at each other,” he said.
Visiting prior to the game, Nick Rasmussen wouldn’t predict the outcome, but did say, “I just hope it’s a close game.”
While placing her order at the Ground Round canopied bar, Robin Callina, Grand Forks, said that attending this gathering with her kids and grandchildren “makes it a family event.” She was pulling for UND, because her son had attended the school.
“UND will win, of course,” Callina predicted early on.
Others were less sure.
“Unfortunately, I believe SU is going to win,” said Kirsten Zeller, Grand Forks. “I’m a realist, I guess.”
The schools’ sporting history, one of the longest rivalries in college football, is attractive to fans.
“It’s just fun -- the longtime rivalry," Zeller said. “Someday we’ll be back on top again in the rivalry. It was sad when they took it away.”
She and her husband, Bill Zeller, are both UND alumni, she said. They met in a UND calculus class.
The brisk temperatures Saturday afternoon were not too hard to handle, she said. “It’s a little chilly out here, but we’re doing all right.”
The outdoor Ground Round bar, which opened at 10:30 a.m., was doing steady business and, along with beer and wine, hot chocolate was selling well and some orders for Irish coffee also were requested by customers.
“My hands are pretty cold but other I’m doing pretty good,” said Tabby Blooflat, bar manager for Ground Round.
Nearby, Adam Kramer of Grand Forks, waiting for the game to start, said, “You have to root for the underdog (UND).”
"It’ll be interesting,” Kramer said. But he didn’t expect the outcome to be close.
The rivalry between these teams, which dates back to 1894, has been mostly dormant since 2003. They last confronted each other in 2015 when the Bison achieved a 34-9 victory at the Fargodome.
The teams now will meet on an annual basis.
“We’ll probably do this again next year,” Walkowiak said of the outdoor viewing event.
“People enjoy the rivalry between the Sioux (now Fighting Hawks) and the Bison,” Walkowiak said. “Now that they’ll be in the same conference, people are excited to get back to that. Everyone loves a little friendly competition.”