Sandy Siwiec watched last Sunday’s Snowvertime game from the Poolside Pub at Del Tura Country Club in Fort Myers, Fla.
At one point, as the television broadcast showed the near-blizzard conditions, a fair-weather fan of another team asked, “aren’t you glad you’re not there?”
“I wish I was at this game,” Siwiec responded. “We had season tickets for years and years and there is nothing like tailgating in the snow.”
Siwiec, a Hamburg native, has been gathering with a group of about 50 Western New York expats at the Poolside Pub for the past few years.
“We’re all from South Buffalo, Hamburg, Tonawanda, Rochester, places like that,” Siwiec said.
Many of the fans are snowbirds who migrate to Florida for the winter months.
“We may be in beautiful Fort Myers for the winters, however our hearts are in Buffalo,” Siwiec said.
Country club members come in to watch various other teams on Sundays, but the Bills fans mark their territory with red, white and blue table cloths and banners.
“We get pretty loud,” Siwiec said. “Fans from the other teams think we are too loud.”
Upon first moving to Fort Myers in 2002, Siwiec met mostly New England Patriots fans in her new locale.
“I told them, wait until the Buffalo fans get down here,” she said. “Now, there are so many of us in the community that we have overtaken the Pats.”
Siwiec’s son, Greg, tends bar at the Lani Kai Island Resort beach bar in Fort Myers, serving many of the same customers he sees at Mickey Rat’s in Angola during the summer months.
Before bringing her informal group together, Siwiec was an officer for the Bills Backers Fun Bunch of Fort Myers chapter that meets about 20 miles south at RonDao’s Pizzeria and Sports Bar.
An inactive Fort Myers chapter, the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida dates back to the early 1990s and was once proclaimed part of the City of Buffalo for a day by former Mayor Anthony Masiello.
The flock of snowbirds has led to the formation of more than 50 Bills Backers chapters in Florida, the highest number of any state, according to the Bills Backers International list.
Jonah Bronstein is a BNblitz.com contributor. If your Bills Backers chapter has a unique story, reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story topics: Bills Backers