Orange fever arrives in the valley |

Orange fever arrives in the valley

Melanie Wong
Superfan Debbie Thompson, of Edwards, shows off Denver Broncos memorabilia from her home on Friday, including a John Elway poster and signed note.

EAGLE COUNTY — What makes a die-hard Broncos fan?

While Vail is especially known for its transplant population, there’s no shortage of rabid fans who have adopted the Broncos as their very own, and they’re very excited that their team is playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Some have Broncos-themed garages. Others admit to effusive displays of emotion during games. Some won’t miss a game, whatever it takes, no matter where they are. Many have superstitions or rituals they claim help the team do well.

We haven’t found anyone who named their child Peyton, but then again, it’s only his second season in orange and blue.

The Elway Shrine

Edwards resident Debbie Thompson will tell you that her most prized possession is an autographed note from John Elway, framed with a photo of No. 7 himself.

The shrine is proudly displayed in her living room, and it’s no surprise for anyone who knows Thompson.

“I moved here in 1979 from Minnesota and became a Broncos fan. When John Elway first started, I was just madly in love with him,” Thompson said. “Once he was eating at (the golf club restaurant) in Singletree, and my friend was serving there. She got his autograph for me. It read, ‘To Debbie: So sorry I missed you, John.’”

She remembers crying profusely the last time the Broncos won the Super Bowl.

“When my boyfriend John Elway won the Super Bowl, my dad called me to congratulate me,” she said, laughing. “I had a huge party, and I was bawling my head off.”

A lifelong fan

This is Broncos Country, and Edwards resident Julie Woulfe is quick to tell that to anyone who disagrees.

“I used to say, ‘If you don’t like the Broncos, get out of my state,’” said Woulfe, who grew up in Denver and remembers going to games with her dad.

The fanship runs in her blood, with her dad a huge fan as well. He bought the original franchise tickets in the ‘60s, on the 50-yard line, about 30 rows up. That put him near the opposing teams’ fans, but that didn’t stop him from letting them know who he cheered for.

“I remember one game against the Raiders, and Broncos fans hate Raiders fans. I remember him flipping off the Raiders fans and yelling at everyone,” she said, laughing. “He passed away when I was in high school, so those are very special memories for us. I even have the original Bronco stadium seats we sat in when they rebuilt the stadium.”

As a child, she even got a Broncos-themed Ken doll and cheerleader Barbie. That Ken doll over the years, in his No. 7 jersey (she stitched “Elway” on the back), became Woulfe’s good luck charm. That doll still sits next to the TV throughout the football season.

“I take him to playoff games with me to help cheer us on. He’s a Broncos fan with me,” she said.

Cheering from across the world

Broncos fan Bart Garton is missing the Super Bowl. The videographer will be in Sochi, Russia, to film the Winter Olympics — but that’s not going to stop him from cheering on his team.

“I’m planning to find a bar somewhere with a bunch of other Colorado cameramen, with a TV and hopefully with beers,” he said. “It’ll be 3 a.m. a day ahead of here in Russia, but I’ll be cheering on the Broncos from the other side of the world.”

He admitted there are crazier Broncos fans in Vail, and some with better traditions, but he said he’ll be wearing what he calls his “PFM shirt.”

“It’s my Peyton F. Manning shirt,” he said. “I won’t say what the F stands for.”

The cheer brigade

Not too many people have been Broncos fans longer than part-time Vail resident Widge Ferguson. She grew up watching college football in Connecticut, and her husband was a high school and college football player.

“I’ve had football in my life for a long time. We saw the Broncos play for the first time, and I became a big fan in the ’70s,” she said.

Some of her favorite memories revolve around a particular game from that era, when the famed Broncos defense, nicknamed “Orange Crush,” helped win one of the biggest games of the season.

“Once all the fans were cheering, the stadium really shook,” she remembered. “I loved the old Mile High Stadium.”

These days, she is still a die-hard fan and watches every game of the season. On occasions when she watched alone, she started dressing up the stuffed animals in her home in Broncos regalia for game day. Now, the furry cheering brigade has become a funny tradition and good-luck charm.

“I’m almost 90, so this is embarrassing to admit, but every night before the game, they get all dressed up and watch with me,” she said.

Her current talisman is an old blue sweatshirt, which she guesses is about 20 years old.

“Since I started wearing it, they’ve been doing well and got through one really tough game,” she said. “I said I wouldn’t wash it until after the Super Bowl.”

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and

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