Chillin' at the Super Bowl: Marco Marriott's 'Big Game at the Beach' bash cool in all senses

— If you remember going to football games up north, back in your previous life, you remember it got cold sometimes. Bundling up against the elements was part of the game, and for a younger child, those last five minutes of the fourth quarter could seem to stretch out endlessly.

Marco Islanders got to experience a little of that feeling Sunday night. Mother Nature took a great idea, the Marriott's Super Bowl beach party, and used it for a little demonstration of just what "wind chill factor" is all about.

The hotel clearly had a winning formula – discounted rooms, unlimited beer, wine, and chicken wings, and a forest of inflatable big screen televisions broadcasting the biggest sporting event of the year. The response proved the point, with 175 rooms sold to locals, opting for a hotel stay literally minutes away from their homes. Approximately 400 showed up to watch the game along the Gulf, with another Marriott party for visiting meeting planners happening right next door.

"This is fun," said Bob Pfeffer, director of sales and marketing at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort. "We sell room nights at a time when we're not sold out, we invite our neighbors here, and we're giving back to the community." A portion of the proceeds from the event went to benefit Taylor Morris, a Navy EOD or explosives ordinance disposal specialist, who suffered profound injuries from a bomb explosion and became a quadruple amputee.

Also benefiting from the "Big Game at the Beach," which was an offer extended exclusively to members of the Marriott's Paradise Club, was the Marco Island Academy. They sponsored a classic scorecard grid, with squares going for $25 each, and prizes provided by the Marriott. MIA chairman Jane Watt, who wore her NFL team colors even though they had already been eliminated, was all smiles as she surveyed the board with its entries.

Of course, the guests benefited as well, having the chance to enjoy themselves, indulge in perhaps several glasses of beer, and as Pfeffer said, "take the elevator home."

Curt Koon was spotted with his hands full, making a beer and wine run for his group. Debbie Wallenberg of Chicago said they had just bought a condo on the island, and credited the beach bash, which they have attended for years, for the purchase.

"We came down for this, and loved it. This is the reason we bought here," she said. Her friend Cheryl Lewandowski, from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, said the temperature at home was about 13 below,

Kurt Anderson gave Ann Anderson chauffer service, pushing her in one of the Marriott's balloon-wheeled chairs over the sand, to get up close to the big screens.

"This is actually pretty cool," said Jack Stouber of Naples. "We showed up at noon, and laid out on the beach."

But it kept getting cooler. The temperature wasn't that low – 61 degrees on the iPhone – but the wind from the north blew relentlessly, rippling the television screens. Twins Danielle and Kristen Nowick, from Derry, New Hampshire, even went barefoot, since after all they were on a beach in Florida. But for the locals, the cold was a reminder of what they came to Marco to escape, and they remembered that they had a perfectly good hotel room with heat and a widescreen TV of their own upstairs, plus several indoor bars to choose from.

The crowd for what at the time appeared to be a blowout at halftime was noticeably thinner when the game's second half began. Then, when the power at the Superdome went out, causing an additional half hour delay, more and more fans slipped off the beach. Only the diehards, like Susie Przybylski, Sherri Mederos and Steve Verbaro, and San Fransisco fan Shelly Hobbs, stayed to see the 49ers comeback fall just short.

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