Hundreds attend Cotton Bowl watch parties in Kalamazoo

Cotton Bowl, Western Michigan, State Theatre
Fans gather at the State Theatre in Kalamazoo to watch Western Michigan take on Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. (Jan. 1, 2017)


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — For longtime Bronco fan Dottie Williams, Western Michigan’s appearance in the Cotton Bowl was a moment so big that she couldn’t even sit still.

“It’s like the Super Bowl to us,” Williams said, ringing a cowbell she brought to a watch party at the State Theatre in Kalamazoo.

She joined a hometown crowd of about 800 people at the theatre to cheer on the WMU football team playing hundreds of miles away.

“They said Cotton don’t grow up north. They’re going to bring that Cotton up north, baby,” Williams said before the game.

Just down the street at Old Burdick’s Bar & Grill,, there was another loud crowd dressed in brown and gold — and one lone soul in enemy territory.

“As soon as I walked in, (I heard) ‘Oh, you’re a brave soul, you’re a brave soul,'” said Wisconsin grad Matt Ricker, dressed all in red. “I’m here with 15 other Western fans, so it’s a good time.”

“You know what — we tolerate him. We bring him along,” Ricker’s longtime friend and Bronco fan Dan Daniels joked.

The two watch parties were among the nearly a dozen in Kalamazoo alone, not including WMU parties happening elsewhere in Michigan and across the nation.

“(Head coach) P.J. Fleck and the ‘Row the Boat’ and the fact that we’re undefeated has really united the whole town and the college and it’s been a wonderful year,” WMU senior Shannon Merchant said.

Cotton Bowl, Western Michigan, Zach Terrell, Wisconsin
Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell (11) runs against Wisconsin defender Garret Dooley (3) during the second quarter of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. Terrell scored a touchdown on the play.

After an exciting game full of tense moments, the Broncos fell 24-16 to the Badgers.

But they fought every step of the way, and their fans are proud of all they accomplished in this historic season. It’s the only loss for a team that won over the community long ago.

“I feel proud. You went up against a powerhouse, Top 5 defense, you didn’t fold, you didn’t break. They got nothing to be ashamed about,” WMU fan Steven Bird said after the game.

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WMU at the Cotton Bowl