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Fans FOREVER

Their sons graduated years ago, so what are Bill and Connie DeMarse doing running the concession stand at Gaither High School?

Why is Lindy Sanchez braiding Chamberlain Chiefettes' hair and what is her husband doing hauling the xylophone out to the field?

They're showing loyalty.

There will be lots of regular fans at the Gaither High School stadium tonight when the Cowboys face arch-rival Chamberlain's Chiefs. Fans who hoot and holler and wave flags. Fans who yell and scream to "kick butt."

Then there will be superfans.

That's what Bill and Connie DeMarse are for Gaither. Not only do they wear buttons, shirts and ribbons to prove their Cowboy pride, they spend hundreds of hours a year in Gaither's concession stand, although their youngest, Chad, graduated in 1993.

And that's what Gil and Lindy Sanchez are for Chamberlain. For 11 years, they have helped out the marching band any way they could. Their daughter graduated nine years ago.

"I've seen helpers come and go and they say to me, "You still here?' " said Gil Sanchez, 49. "I tell them, "Yeah man, I'm still here.' "

They show up early and leave late. They do the little stuff like putting out garbage cans for the craft show fund-raiser. And the big stuff like loading and unloading the drums from the van at away games.

"They are devoted," said Jim Pullen, athletic director at Gaither.

Each couple became involved in their school because of their children. Bill and Connie's boys were active in golf and soccer. Gil and Lindy's daughter was on the flag team.

"Not every parent can be involved, but we could," said Bill DeMarse, a manager for Burger King on N Dale Mabry.

He and Connie, a homemaker, joined the athletic booster club. They went to a meeting and when members were looking for someone to run the concession stand, Bill decided to put his food preparation skills to use.

They now run the stand at football, volleyball, wrestling, soccer, softball and basketball home games. They would run the stand during swim meets, but those are held off-campus.

The DeMarses have spent as many as three nights in one week in the concession stand. When they're not in the stand, they're out shopping for the inventory of Snickers and Skittles at Sam's Warehouse and ordering soft drinks from the local Coca-Cola distributor. And they organize the 30 people needed to run Gaither's two concession stands.

Sometimes they don't leave until 11:30 on game nights.

The DeMarses also work fund-raisers. One time, some elderly people were complaining about how far the restroom was from the craft show. DeMarse helped shuttle them back and forth in a golf cart.

"Whatever it takes," he said.

The Sanchezes, who both work at GTE, started chaperoning for the Chamberlain band when their daughter was in the flag corps.

"We were there first as parents," Gil Sanchez said.

They called roll on the bus and zipped up band jackets. He helped load and unload the keyboards and drums from the van and helped take the green box the drum major stands on to the 50-yard line for halftime performances.

They have even been known to drive students home after games.

Both couples became great fans of their schools. Then their children graduated, going off to college, the military or jobs.

Mom and Dad stayed behind.

They didn't want to stop working the games. They had become friends with teachers and administrators. They had met so many students.

They were having fun.

"It is what we do on a Friday night," Bill DeMarse said.

On home game nights, he meets his wife at Gaither after work. They work the stand until the game is over. Then they and other volunteers go to Goodfellas, a sports bar and restaurant.

These superfans know the ropes and show newer parents what to do when the band director or coach is busy. They handle catastrophes like running out of Coke.

Of course, they are not the only superfans at their schools. Chamberlain, with its decades of tradition, and Gaither, with a growing history of its own, each has plenty of devoted parents and other supporters.

They come to high school football games, they say, because it is unlike going to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. It's not as commercialized. You can feel involved.

"It is raw football," said Sue Brown, a Gaither athletics booster since the school opened 11 years ago. "It's not people getting a million dollars to play. They are doing it because they love it."

These superfans don't get a paycheck for what they do. Sometimes, though, they get a special moment.

At a banquet two years ago, Chamberlain band director Tim Dixon gave Gil Sanchez a special award. But before he could finish his speech and introduce Sanchez, the audience full of band kids stood up and applauded.

"They knew who I was," Sanchez said.

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