If you’re from the Illinois Valley, there is about a 99.5 percent chance you’re a Chicago Bears fan.
The Biers family is in the .5 percentile as they root for the Denver Broncos.
Mari Biers, who graduated from Mendota in 2017, has been a Broncos fan her entire life and remembers going to her first game at 5-years old.
“My dad (Cory Biers) grew up watching them and it became a family affair,” said Mari, who attends Iowa State University to study Kinesiology. “Dad liked them so we liked them, and the next thing you know we’re going to Denver. We are all Broncos fans.
“For Father’s Day a couple of years ago, McKennon came up with the idea to get our dad a signed (John) Elway jersey and a signed (Peyton) Manning jersey in a huge case. There were pictures of all of us at all of the games we’ve been to on a big frame. It was really cool.”
Cory and his wife Becky began the trips to Broncos games when McKennon (27) was 5 and have included Mikan (23) and Mari (20) as they became old enough.
The Biers make every home season opener and attend a game around Thanksgiving or Christmas every season.
“We’ve never flown to Denver,” Mari said. “We’ve always drove. It’s kind of cool, but it kind of sucks.
“We’ve grown up with sports. It makes for good family memories and good family trips. I’m so thankful that we’re able to go out there and see our teams play. It’s good family time. It’s a cool place to go.”
Mari’s favorite Bronco is either Von Miller or Peyton Manning, Cory answers Elway without hesitation and McKennon says Elway and Manning.
Although the drives can be long and dangerous in the snow, Cory prefers the family road trips to see his team.
“Going in September is pretty simple,” said Cory. “When we go to games in November and December, you don’t know what you’re going to get. We’ve left Mendota after a snowstorm and we’re going 10 MPH on Rt. 80. We’ll get to the quad cities and I’m thinking, ‘We have a long way to go.’ We’ve left Denver at midnight before when it’s snowing. We’ve drove in the snow for more than half of the trip and then get rerouted because the interstate is blocked. The way back can be a challenge.
“I’ll be 50 this year. When I was 8 in 1977, Denver was really good. That’s when I started watching them and I stuck with it. I had family in Colorado. About 10-years ago, we were drawn to get season tickets. Ever since then, it has been our goal to get out there every year to maintain those tickets. At some point, I can envision them going to my kids and they can take their kids.”
McKennon, who graduated from MHS in 2010 remembers Elway games and says one of his favorite memories is when Manning was introduced at the Broncos’ home opener in 2012.
At the same time, he remembers and cherishes the rides in the car.
“It was a lot of fun growing up,” McKennon said. “It was always something I looked forward to. It was something we bonded over. I’ve had a good relationship with my dad. The Broncos are one of the things we connect on.
“The family trips were a blast. I thought sometimes we were crazy for driving that far, but it was always nice when we’d stay for a week or spend 10 days out there. The game is always the high point of the trip, but you realize spending time with your family during those long car rides ends up being just as memorable.”
Last year offered a changeup for McKennon and Cory.
Cory attended a game without his oldest child for the first time since they began going to games together 22-years ago.
“He’s only been to one game without me and it was last year around Christmas,” said McKennon, who joined his father at the 216 AFC Championship where the Broncos defeated the New England Patriots 20-18 to advance and win Super Bowl 50. “I had plans with my girlfriend (Kate Gaffey). It was pretty odd because it had never happened before. I don’t know how many games we’ve been to but it’s a pretty big number.
“To know he was there without me was pretty weird. Hopefully, there are not too many more of those in the future. It was a little bit different.”
The Biers’ season tickets were on the 30-yard line and 14 rows from the top of Mile High Stadium.
This year will be different scenery as the season tickets have been moved close to an end zone.
“We can see the mountains from our seats,” Cory said. “When the sun goes down, we’re looking into the mountains. We got an upgrade this year, so we’re going to be more in the end zone. I’m looking forward to that. It’s pretty high but you can see the play develop and you can see the sun setting in the mountains.
"The hard part has always been getting five tickets in a row. When I was contacted about season tickets, they said all you can get is four. I said, ‘That won’t work, I am married and have three kids.’ The first year we had three in one row and two in the row in front. The next year, we got all five. It works pretty good because now we can all share a blanket.”
Although Becky Biers loves watching the games and enjoys being with her family in the car, one of her favorite memories is when the Biers family was chosen to hold the American flag on the field for the first time.
The family has been chosen to hold the red, white and blue multiple times over the years.
“I love watching the game. The whole part of the whole family being together is fun. It’s something we can get all of the kids to do. It’s a good time.
“Cory is good about thinking about something else to do while we’re there. It’s not just the game. We’ve been snowmobiling, dog sledding, hiking if the weather is good and we went skiing for the first time last year.”
The Biers are excited about the upcoming NFL season.
First the family is going to visit Mari and join her at the Iowa-Iowa State football game before driving to Denver for the Week 2 game against the Chicago Bears.
The next week, the Biers family will be in Green Bay, Wis. for the Week 3 game between the Broncos and the Packers.
“It’s all changing with the older we get,” Mari said. “We tailgate before the game and then we walk into the stadium. Around here, you don’t have many Broncos’ fans. You go there and everyone is a Broncos fan. It’s such a cool environment there.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.