Wisconsin Badgers, USA Today
By: Laura S. Bly, USA Today
Madison, WI-- Game days in Madison start early with a counterclockwise stroll around the capitol square for the weekly Dane County Farmers' Market. Organizers claim it's the country's largest producer-only market; vendors sell everything from bountiful bouquets (mostly dried, this time of year) to venison jerky, cider donuts and artisanal chevre. Badger red is the color of the day, with even the occasional pumpkin sporting a natty "W" cap.
That team spirit kicks into high gear during the pre-game Badger Bash at Union South, where beloved mascot Bucky Badger struts his stuff and the University of Wisconsin Marching Band revs up the crowd with standards like Beer Barrel Polka.
Mike Leckrone, who dances a pretty mean polka himself, has directed the band since 1969. He arrived at the end of a 24-game losing streak, but even in those Dark Ages the Badger Nation remained loyal.
"Wisconsin fans want to be involved, not just spectators, and we've played on that," says Leckrone, who launched the band's raucous, post-game "Fifth Quarter" performances as a way to engage the faithful regardless of the final score. (Another symbol of Badgers' participatory fervor: "Jump Around," a tradition that dates from a 1998 homecoming game against Purdue. When the Camp Randall speakers blare the House of Pain anthem between the third and fourth quarters, the students start stomping and the entire stadium rocks to the beat.)
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