DARLINGTON, Wis. - It was a first ever for Darlington residents. Fans of the football powerhouse got a chance to experience the tradition of Friday night under the lights.
The lights not only amped up the playing field, but had fans electrified in the stands. In fact, they started to show up for the 7 p.m. kickoff before 5 p.m. and workers at the concession stand say it's the busiest they've ever seen.
Fridays mean football for many folks in Darlington, but this week's game is particularly special.
"Anytime it's homecoming it's a big deal for this community. Anytime Mineral Point is in town, it's a big deal to this community. You put that on top of all that's new and it's through the roof," said Activities Director Kurt Cohen.
Redbird fans were treated to a new scoreboard, a new concession stand and, for the first time eve,r a nighttime home game.
"It's a test run. This is our chance to see if Darlington wants to do night games or if they want to stay with the afternoon tradition," Cohen said. They usually play their home games Friday afternoons because their field doesn't have any lights.
The activities director said area residents donated the $12,000 needed to put lights the field Friday night. "It's gone beyond Darlington High School, Darlington School District; it is a community event," Cohen said.
He added night games would be more convenient for folks who still want to see the team play but can't leave work or shut down their business in the middle of the day. Redbird country has been buzzing for weeks about the temporary 60-foot lights. "
"I've got mixed feelings about it," said lifelong Darlington resident & alumnus Steve Carpenter. "I've always been here during the day games, but it would be nice -- maybe we'll get a little more crowd. It will be neat to see how well it goes tonight."
"I think the lights are a good idea," said Jean Stauffacher, also an alum. "Actually, our dairy is one of the supporters of the lights tonight and so I hope it does bring in the community and we can all come together as one."
Last year the school ran 750 programs for its homecoming celebration. This year, it ran 1,500, but they're estimating as many as 3,000 people would come just to see the team play under the lights.
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