Cases of Labatt Blue Light cover an entire wall at Whitehall Tavern in downtown Atlanta. Duff’s Famous Wings in Newnan, Ga., is bringing 2,000 wings to the tailgate. Galla’s will deliver 100 sheets of Buffalo-style pizza.
“And we’re going to run out of food,” said Alex Del Pozzo, president of the Bills Backers of Atlanta.
Claiming to be the largest organization of Bills supporters outside of New York, the Bills Backers of Atlanta count more than 2,000 members. This weekend, they’re welcoming Bills fans from throughout the Southeast – and Buffalo, of course – to join the party.
“Our slogan is: We’re the home of all things Buffalo. The only thing we don’t have is the snow,” said Ronni Scibetta, one of the club founders, along with fellow Starpoint High School graduate Jeff Blackman.
Group: Bills Backers of Atlanta
Membership: More than 2,000
Operating since: 2004
Traditions: Annual tailgate party and Bills road trips
Philanthropy: Raised more than $9,000 for Buffalo and Atlanta charities over the last nine years.
Even when the Bills are not in town, there are enough backers to fill three bars in and around Atlanta.
The club started at Whitehall Tavern, on a one-year trial. “They made so much money that they said they had to have us back,” said Scibetta, currently one of the BBA committee members, with Allison Kretovic, Catherine Kassab and John Dutko.
“Now the waitresses in the summer tell us how much they miss us,” Scibetta said.
More than 300 Bills fans huddle at Whitehall Tavern for games. When it got to be standing room only a few years ago, the club adopted a second bar, Tavern at Medlock in Norcross, Ga., owned by Niagara Falls native Peter Woolverton.
Tavern at Medlock, located 15 miles north of downtown, now draws more than 200 people for Bills games, Scibetta said. Upon opening his Duff’s franchise last fall, Georgia-born Bills fan Elijah Sleigh reached out to the club about becoming an official backer location. Nearly 100 Bills fans now toss wing bones in buckets at the Duff’s in Newnan, about 35 miles south of the city.
“The Bills aren’t on TV too often down here, so it allows a lot of people who live further away a chance to watch the games,” Del Pozzo said.
Over the last nine years, the Bills Backers of Atlanta have leveraged their large membership to raise more than $9,000 for charities in Buffalo and Atlanta. Last year, they donated $1,000 to both Women & Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House Charities, according to the club’s website.
The club has raised funds through group trips to watch Bills games in Jacksonville, Nashville and Tampa Bay, as well as an annual tailgate party before one of the 4 p.m. games (since alcohol sale is prohibited in Atlanta before 12:30 p.m. on Sundays).
“Every year, as soon as the schedule comes out, everybody’s asking when the tailgate party will be,” Scibetta said.
This year, the club is expecting to raise more than $5,000 from Saturday night events at Whitehall Tavern and Tavern at Medlock, and a Sunday morning tailgate party at 157 Luckie St.
“Right next to the giant Ferris wheel,” Del Pozzo said. “It’s going to be a true Buffalo experience.”
The lot, located with walking distance of Mercedes Benz-Stadium, will host the Red Pinto tailgate. It has already sold out for parking, but $10 admission provides food, music and games. Bring your own booze.
“I won’t be surprised if we have 1,000 people there,” Del Pozzo said.
Saturday’s Night Before Kickoff Party at Whitehall Tavern is sold out but tickets are still available for the Tavern at Medlock event. Admission ($30) includes Buffalo-style food and open bar (stocked with Blue Light) from 6 to 9 p.m.
Jonah Bronstein is a BNblitz.com contributor. If your Bills Backers club has a unique story, reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.