Jim Riden is 91 years old and has lived in Valley City, N.D., for more than 60 years. He's been a North Dakota State football fan much of his adult life. His son graduated from NDSU. But despite living about an hour west of Fargo, Riden has never been to a Bison football game.
That will change Saturday, Nov. 9.
If you want to hear what a World War II-era veteran sounds like when he's pumped up, talk to Riden.
"I've never been to a Bison game. It's just one of those things. But it's something I've always wanted to do before I leave this earth. Now I'll get to go. In fact, I just dug out my Bison cap and a couple of shirts. I'm trying to decide what I'm going to wear Saturday. I haven't decided yet," Riden said.
Riden and his daughter Linda will attend the No. 1-ranked Bison's game at the Fargodome against Western Illinois thanks to tickets collected by Alana Christensen, an NDSU superfan who lives in rural Campbell, Minn. As chronicled in this space last week, Christensen urged fans to donate tickets prior to last season's FCS playoff game against Colgate so veterans could attend. It was so successful, allowing 140 veterans to see the Bison play, that Christensen decided to do it again this season.
She chose Saturday's game because it's just prior to Veterans Day and because it falls on the opening weekend of deer hunting in North Dakota and Minnesota. Christensen figured many hunters would be willing to donate their tickets. She was right.
As of Tuesday night, Bison fans had donated 290 tickets. That includes 47 given by Gate City Bank, which will allow veterans to use its suite to watch the game. That's where Riden will be, in fact.
"I've never even been to a game and now I get to watch from a suite. That's pretty neat," Riden said.
Christensen said two other World War II veterans from Fargo will also attend the game using donated tickets. They'll be seated in the front row at the 35-yard line.
"All the veterans I talk with are so happy and so appreciative," Christensen said. "If there is Bison fatigue out there, there isn't any among these veterans. They are excited at this opportunity."
Christensen contacted The Forum last week in an effort to attract more donations because she had more veterans on her waiting list than tickets to give them. She had about 70 tickets for 200 veterans. In a positive plot twist, that has flipped. Christensen now says she's in need of more veterans to whom to give tickets.
"I could use more veterans. Who ever thought that would be a problem?" she said.
The best way for a veteran to secure a ticket for the game is to call or text Christensen directly. Her number is 701-899-2578.
Christensen said ticket donations are still coming in, and she surpassed her goal of raising $5,000 in a GoFundMe account set up in case tickets needed to be purchased. So far, she's spent minimally from that account because so many tickets were donated.
"I've gotten really good at explaining to people how they can transfer their tickets online. I've never taught so many people how to transfer tickets online," Christensen said with a laugh.
Christensen said the veterans are asked to meet in the Fargodome's east lobby near the bison statue at noon on Saturday. The tickets will be distributed there and the group will gather for a photo. Then it's into the stands to await the 2:30 p.m. kickoff against the 1-8 Leathernecks in a game the Bison are expected to win easily.
Riden said his daughter, who is flying in from out of town Thursday, is also excited to attend the game.
"It is going to be fun. I even bought a cane today, just to make sure I had some stabilization," Riden said. "I realize the team they are playing only has one win, but so what? It'll be fun just finally being at a game."