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Bemidji State homecoming brings back memories

Bemidji State University’s Bucky the Beaver leads his team through the line of alumni and fans at Diamond Point Park Saturday morning. Brian Matthews | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — The smell of grilled hot dogs, brats and hamburgers filled Diamond Point Park Saturday morning, where Bemidji State University alumni of all ages tailgated in preparation of the homecoming game against the University of Minnesota Crookston.

A few hundred fans gathered in the park at 11 a.m. Saturday, two hours before kickoff. For alumni like Herb Day, class of 1958, the tailgating event is a chance to see old classmates and reminisce on his glory days.

Day, who played tackle for the Beavers in the ‘50s, said he has made an effort to come up for the homecoming game a number of times in the past few years. Prior to his class’s 50th year anniversary in 2008 he had not been to a homecoming game in years, but after going once and getting to see a number of his old classmates and teammates, he has made the effort to make the drive from New Brighton when he can.

Day said people never tailgated before the game in his day. In addition to the change in the game-day atmosphere he said the players themselves have changed a lot.

“I was talking with the coach last night about the team’s big guys, who in my day coach Jolly Erickson called ‘beef thrusts,”’ Day said. “The beef thrusts then were 170, 175, 180, 185, 190, 200 and 220 (pounds). I started laughing because today these guys are 220, 230, 245, 260, 280 and some are even 300 pounds.”

Day said he never used to be able to follow BSU football, but since he got DirectTV he has been able to stay up to date with Lakeland News telecasts, keeping him in touch with the team and the community.

There are many alumni like Day who have to make a drive to come to the game, but many of the school’s alumni have remained in the community.

Don “Pappy” Papreck, a 1978 graduate of BSU, said he does not go to many games, but he does try to get to homecoming each year.

Papreck, an Illinois native, who came to BSU to be on the men’s gymnastics team, fell in love with the Bemidji community and has lived here ever since. He currently coaches at the Gym Bin.

His memories of BSU homecoming go back to when he was one of the cheerleaders who accompanied the team when running onto the field before kickoff.

“When the football team went on the field we would round off and do back handsprings as far down the field as we could,” Papreck said. “It added a nice visual effect to the team coming on the field.”

Papreck and Day were just two of several hundred alumni that joined the tailgating party in Diamond Point Park before the Beaver’s Homecoming victory.