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Stagg Bowl fans get the party started for annual championship game

SALEM (WSLS10) -

Returning fans and those new, line the stadium's lot as the party is just getting started. The NCAA Division III Championship game is back and football diehards all want to take home a win. Many fans travel thousands of miles to watch the Stagg Bowl year after year.

This is the 19th year that Mount Union has visited the championship city. It's also, the 10th year Salem Stadium has hosted the event.

Fans are sporting either the Purple Raiders from the University of Mount Union or the Tomcats from the University of St. Paul. It's an event that draws thousands to our area each year. One fan tells us she's been coming since 1993!

"When I come here, I love coming out with all the fans," said Mount Union senior Joseph Angeli. "I know everyone and everyone knows everyone that comes out to these tailgates. It's just like a whole family kind of thing."

This is the 19th year that Mount Union has visited the championship city.

One proud alum, who was a student at the time of the first game in 1993, has never missed one.

"It's tremendous," said Ann Graffice, a Mount Union Alum. "Every year we have a new group of friends, family, students. And they players they are really just amazing. It's really a family and just becomes that kind of a party."

It's why Graffice like others keep coming back and newcomers too.

"It's not a surprise they're here, they've worked it," said Jarod Dodson, a St. Thomas fan from New York. "We are so excited. I mean it's Christmas time, the city looks beautiful, it's prepared and we're expecting to make this quite an adventure."

"Annually when Mount Union is in the game they have somewhere from 1,100 to 1,500 fans," said Stagg Bowl Game Manager Carey Harveycutter. "I would say other than students that would be here, there's probably 600 to 800 of them."

Harveycutter adds this one championship rings in about $1.4 million dollars for the city with visitors frequenting hotels, restaurants and local shops.

Now, Graffice brings the whole family to support the players she calls her adopted sons. And with time to spare before kick off, those returning know how to have a good time.

"We'll go shopping and we might go downtown today, because there's a lot of spare time before the game," said Lauren Graffice. "Then we'll go tailgating. That's my favorite part."

Now, the game starts at 7p.m. If you don't have a ticket, they'll be available to purchase at the door.