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The Dizzies of DII protect 40-year-old tailgating tradition

  • Members of the Dizmal Dozen tailgate before the October 15, 2016 homecoming game.

Posted on March 15, 2017

The Dizmal Dozen, a group of alums oozing Laker pride, is much more exciting and upbeat than the name may indicate.

Better known as "The Dizzies," the group began as an intramural sports team in 1967; members were well-known on campus and were recruited for their athletic ability.

Over the years, the Dizzies turned into a social group with dozens of members, and they have been tailgating before Laker football games for more than 40 years. 

The five core members of the Dizzies are Bill MacDermaid (Mac), George Zoerner (Z), Dave VanPortfleet (Port), Dave Parsons (Par) and Mark Adams (Chet). Some were roommates and all have had a deep sense of Laker pride from the very beginning.

 "Grand Valley was so young when we came; it was brand new," said Parsons, '73, a native of Grand Haven. "Going to college was very significant back then because many people didn't go. We were very proud to attend Grand Valley. We all became best friends and stayed around the area." 

 It would be safe to say the Dizzies initiated tailgating at Laker football games. "We were out there back when Grand Valley first had a football team of any sort," said Parsons. "There were just a couple of us with a Grand Valley flag on a pole, hoping to attract other people. Eventually, others started arriving before the start of the game."

 MacDermaid, who played football for Grand Valley in 1970, remembers tailgating before Lubbers Stadium was built in 1972. Football became a varsity sport at Grand Valley in 1971.

 "A hi-lo was used to bring bleachers out of the Fieldhouse. They would be set up next to the football field," said MacDermaid, '72. "There wasn't a fence or admission — you just walked up and sat in the bleachers. On a good day, there were 500 people."

 For the past 20 years, the group's popular tailgating spot in the Irwin parking lot has grown into what's known as Fort Dizzie. It can be easily spotted with its multiple tents, 12 flags flying on telescopic flag poles, multiple grills, burgers, brats and even free giveaways.

MacDermaid said Homecoming brings members of the Dizmal Dozen from around the country home to Allendale. Some come from as far away as Colorado and the Dominican Republic to make a stop at Fort Dizzie. 

"Anyone is welcome to come by," said MacDermaid. "We have former players stop by, classmates from back in the day and folks like Tim Selgo (former athletic director) and President Haas. We were invited to the president's box to watch the game this year. That was such an honor for us."

The Dizzies aren't only fans: they serve as unofficial scouts and are hard at work long before the Homecoming game each fall. The group attends spring workouts in April to assess the team, and holds a pre-season tailgater in August to talk about players, stats and strategy.

"We set up all of our equipment on the front lawn of one our houses," said Parsons. "We put up the flagpoles and tents, you know, to be sure it's all working. Then we get out our notes and talk team strategy."

The Dizmal Dozen said their Laker Effect extends beyond football pride. The group has contributed to the university in various ways over the years, including purchasing a bench for the Alumni House when it was under construction, and donating to the football endowment fund. 

"Our pride and loyalty comes from what we learned, experienced and shared at Grand Valley," said Parsons. "We grew up with Grand Valley, and now, we're growing older with Grand Valley."