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Tailgating fans honor Ralph Wilson

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Mike Desmond/wbfo news
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The music rocked and the hotdogs grilled as hard-core Bills fans remembered team owner Ralph Wilson yesterday during a party within sight of the football stadium.

The party began as an unofficial wake for Ralph Wilson and turned into a much larger party hosted by Wings Flights of Hope. Wings founder Joe Demarco says the charity has some ties to the team and some former players like Jim Kelly and he wanted to honor the team founder.

Bills Communications Senior Vice President Scott Berchtold says the team recognizes the fans did it all themselves.

"We appreciate the warm feelings and the love, the outpouring of love this week for this incredible man from our fans has just been incredible," Berchtold said.

"On behalf of the Wilson family and behalf of the Bills organization, we just want to thank all of our fans for all of the warm thoughts and the condolences."

Tailgaters say Wilson brought the team here more than a half-century ago and kept it here when he might have moved the Bills somewhere else. Many say they wanted to thank him with a memorial tailgate.

"We're here today because we lost the person that's pretty central in what we do and how we live and these are the people we know so we come and tailgate together," said a man identified as "Captain Buffalo," who was dressed in full football gear.
            
The entrance fee will go to the charity Hunter's Hope.

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Credit Mike Desmond/wbfo news
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Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.