"We're honoring Mr. Wilson the best way we know how and that's with a tailgate," said event organizer Del Reid.
The team's top fan group, Billsmafia, announced plans for the Ralph Wilson event on Tuesday. The response was so overwhelming they had to move from their normal tailgating lot to one ten times as big.
"That just seemed like the way to do it. Let's celebrate it. (Wilson) lived a great life and had quite a legacy. Let's remember it that way," said Reid, who is also the founder of Billsmafia.
Several hundred Bills fans attended, including some from Rochester, Canada and New York City. "For the last 54 years, Ralph has meant everything to this community," said Bills fan Ken Johnson of Rochester. "If we all get together, everyone is talking about Ralph between our hamburgers and other festivites. He'd probably appreciate that."
Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon stopped by. He said Mr. Wilson always revered the passion of Bills fans. He told the assembled throng that the fans have helped him, the Wilson family and the Bills family get through a difficult week.
"(Wilson) would have loved being out here with everybody," Brandon said. "He always enjoyed coming in and seeing the tailgating. Our fans are incredible. They're fun. They're passionate. It was fun to spend time with everybody and it was very therapeutic to be quite frank."
Not only was the day about remembering Ralph Wilson, it was also about supporting Jim Kelly. Each car parked in the lot donated a minimum of ten dollars. All of that money plus ten percent of all food sales went to Kelly's foundation--Hunter's Hope.
"It's been a rough week," Reid said. "That saying 'nobody circles the wagons'... that's what we're doing here. We're circling the wagons."
"They have parties going on in Tampa. There's one going on in Pennsylvania today," said correctly informed Bills fan Michael Thomas of Greece. "All to honor Ralph today and the money goes to Hunter's Hope. What other team is going to do that?"
The event raised around three thousand dollars and Brandon said the Bills will match it. He told the crowd the team has even bigger plans to honor their late owner.
"A lot of people have asked me 'how can we honor Ralph Wilson?'," Brandon said. "How can we honor him? One word--win."
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