FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Badger fans flocked to Slackers Bar & Grill Thursday to enjoy cheese curds, brats and old fashioneds.
To get in, fans have to push past glass doors with the outline of Wisconsin on them. Once inside, it’s like they’re transported 1,500 miles north, back to Madison.
“It feels like home. It is. It’s homey. You’ve got the Packers stuff, the Badgers stuff, it feels like home,” said Sheila Wallendal, a Badgers fan who made the trip to Florida from Horicon.
Bar owner Jon Slack opened the bar about eight years ago. He’s originally from Wisconsin but moved to south Florida in 1987.
“It’s just like home. It reminds me of home, that’s why I did it,” he said.
The bar serves classic Wisconsin foods like fresh and fried cheese curds, beer brats, Wisconsin beers and old fashioned cocktails. Every Badgers and Packers game is played on the big screen, and game days are a big deal.
“We have a DJ here. We play Wisconsin and Packers music throughout commercials, offer great specials for everybody, just create an environment and an atmosphere that makes it really fun and makes everybody feel like they’re back in Wisconsin,” Slack said.
There’s quite a large Wisconsin fan base in south Florida. Slack said the bar is packed on Packers game days.
“I’ve had people tell me they ‘ve driven as much as 50-60 miles to get here on a regular basis,” he said.
Local fans like Madge Baker said she’s been waiting for the Badgers to come to Miami ever since she graduated in 1973. She’s a member of the South Florida Chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association.
“I go home for homecoming, I go to most of the bowl games, so I’m a true Badger,” she said. “We’re just so excited, the whole bunch of us.”
Other local fans like Linda Percival have a tough decision to make for Saturday’s Orange Bowl. She’s from Fort Lauderdale but her family is from Wisconsin.
“I’ve got a dilemma because we’ve got the Badgers and then we’ve got UM, but I’m leaning towards the Badgers,” Percival said with a laugh. “Definitely the Badgers.”
Marilyn Riedel came with Percival to Slackers for the first time. Riedel is from Jefferson and spent Christmas in Florida with her family.
“My sister told me that this place existed, but it was interested to see how at-home atmosphere it is with all the Packer and Badger memorabilia and stuff like that,” she said. “It’s just like any bar in Jefferson or in Wisconsin, so it’s nice. I’m glad they have something like this here.”
Riedel said she and Percival plan to have a watch party at a family member’s house. Other Badger fans like Wallendal, Slack and Baker were lucky enough to score tickets to the Orange Bowl.
Slack said the bar is planning to host a party Friday night for Badgers fans. It’ll also have a watch party Saturday for people who don’t have tickets to the game. Slack said they’ll have special deals for anyone in their Badgers gear.
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