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East Bradenton residents gear up for Super Bowl Sunday

Lakewood Ranch's Morgan Gabrielson fills a stadium with snacks for every Kansas City Chiefs game.
Lakewood Ranch's Morgan Gabrielson fills a stadium with snacks for every Kansas City Chiefs game.
Courtesy image
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Mill Creek’s Ross Hutchinson remembered standing against a wall after his favorite football team, the New England Patriots, fall behind the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 Super Bowl. 

Attending a Super Bowl party at the home of Mill Creek's Dan Maroney, Hutchinson had sat in a chair, listening to his brother, Zachary Hutchinson, chanting, yelling and cheering for the Falcons the entire first half. The Patriots were down 28-3. 

So Hutchinson decided to stand, hoping a new viewpoint might change the Patriots' fortunes.

Yes, he is superstitious.

He didn't move a muscle, and it worked, or perhaps the Patriots just played better. In any event, New England won 34-28.

Those enjoying the game at the Maroney home that year helped him keep his position. They brought food and drinks to him, so he didn't have to leave his spot at the wall. 

Hutchinson finally moved after the win, gloating in front of his brother. Zachary Hutchinson should have found a better spot.

Mill Creek's Ross Hutchinson and Dan Maroney start preparing Super Bowl food at 9 a.m. and cook until game time.
Courtesy image

Superstitions are part of the Super Bowl experience for some fans like Ross Hutchinson. 

Every year, the NFL's showcase event draws together millions of people, who don't have tickets to attend the game. 

Maroney and Ross Hutchinson have spent the past decade coming together for the Super Bowl with 50 to 100 friends and neighbors coming to Maroney’s home. 

Maroney and his wife, Sara Maroney, will host their 10th annual Super Bowl party Feb. 11. 

When the Maroneys moved to Mill Creek a decade ago, they wanted a way to connect with their new neighbors. The Super Bowl gave them the perfect opportunity to make new friends while celebrating the event. 

The Maroneys, along with Hutchinson and his wife, Rhiannon, now look forward to the biggest and best party of the year. They have a 20-foot screen projected onto the pool cage, and they create a kids zone to entertain them during the game. 

Maroney recalled having video games and a sandlot football field for the kids at the first party 10 years ago. One year, they brought in waterslides. Another year the kids had cupcake wars.

Some of the girls in the neighborhood are members of competitive dance teams, so the halftime show has been an opportunity for them to show off their dance skills. 

“They put on a little halftime show during the halftime show, for sure,” Hutchinson said. 

A big part of the Super Bowl party is the food. Hutchinson and Maroney go grocery shopping the day before the big game and buy 20 racks of ribs and 20 pounds of pulled pork and brisket.

Mill Creek residents gather at Dan Maroney's home for a Super Bowl party.
Courtesy image

Come 9 a.m. on game day, they are grilling. The grill isn’t turned off until just before kickoff. 

Maroney said the ribs always are the first to go, getting wiped out by the end of the first quarter. 

But it's about more than just good food and football.

“We love to get together as much as possible, try to take care of people and provide a great opportunity for them,” Hutchinson said. “We both thrive on that. We love that part of life.”

For the past 10 years, Maroney and Hutchinson have seen the neighborhood kids grow up. Now some of them are in college or are starting jobs. 

The duo said they try to make the party better than the previous year’s, but it’s getting tougher. 

“Short of having a light show and fireworks, I’m not sure where we go from here,” Hutchinson said with a laugh.

This year, Maroney said, they are going the sentimental route. They are decorating a banner with photos from past Super Bowl parties and having everyone who attends the party sign it.

Their Super Bowl bash always ends with a pool party. 

“No matter what the temperature is, somebody’s in the pool,” Hutchinson said. 

Not having their favorite teams playing in the Super Bowl this year means Maroney and Hutchinson will be less stressed. They can spend more time interacting with their guests than trying to focus on the game.

But their party certainly is not the only party in town.

For Lakewood Ranch’s Morgan Gabrielson, this year’s Super Bowl is personal. She’s been a Kansas City Chiefs fan since she was a child. She grew up in Kansas City and her parents were season ticket holders. She would spend her summers traveling to River Falls, Wisconsin to watch training camp.

Morgan, Fallon, David, Litton and Greenly Gabrielson are ready to support the Kansas City Chiefs during the Super Bowl.
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While growing up, Gabrielson said her favorite team never made it far into the playoffs, but now with her family’s favorite players Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce leading the charge and bringing home Super Bowl victories, every football game comes with excitement. 

“It’s been such a fun ride,” Gabrielson said. “It’s so fun for my kids to see them win a Super Bowl and go back again.”

The Gabrielson family takes the Chiefs games seriously and are football-focused. It’s more about the game than the festivities, Gabrielson said. 

She decorates her home in everything Chiefs for game day. Her chairs have referee uniform covers. There are cardboard cutouts of Mahomes and Kelce standing tall. She has inflatable football balloons. She is creating an arch leading to the front door of her home that will have red and yellow hearts. 

“I have Joe Montana (who ended his career with the Chiefs) helmets from back when I was a child and a lot of autographed memorabilia that has been fun to be able to pull out and use as decor,” she said.

Although football is the focus, her creativity shines when it comes to the food. Gabrielson makes a stadium out of snacks including various vegetables, chips, meats and cheeses. She said the snack stadium is fun because she can switch up the snacks.

Snacks and foods are made to look like footballs and to support the Kansas City Chiefs.
Courtesy image

She makes a cheese ball and chocolate chip cheesecake dip in the shape of a football. Her charcuterie board looks like Kelce’s jersey with a heart made out of popcorn as a shoutout to the football star’s relationship with musician Taylor Swift. 

Gabrielson said her daughters, Fallon and Greenly, weren’t Swift fans until she started attending Chiefs games, but now the girls look forward to seeing her pop up on their screen during the game — and they now listen to her music. 

“(Swift) was not even in our vocabulary until this year,” she said. “We were Chiefs fans and Kelce fans first. It’s really cute to watch them get excited to see her.”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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