Creating a Sober Scene

Hazelden Betty Ford and numerous collaborators close out National Recovery Month with tailgate party, concert and grassroots commitment to service, community and sober fun

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
6 min readOct 5, 2023
“Tiny” — a large inflatable Minnesota Viking looms over the Sept. 30 Sober Tailgate Party held at Hazelden Betty Ford in St. Paul. A highlight of the tailgate was the generous support and participation of four of Minnesota’s professional sports teams: the Vikings, Wild, Timberwolves and Lynx.

➡️ WANT MORE PHOTOS? See the album curated by Amanda Sterling

To close out National Recovery Month on Sept. 30, 2023, approximately 525 attendees and volunteers gathered for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s second annual Sober Tailgate Party in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was one of more than 500 events held worldwide on International Recovery Day, which this year was also the first-ever Recovery Month Day of Service, inspired by the national initiative Mobilize Recovery.

A day later, on Oct. 1, nearly 70 Minnesota recovery advocates attended a workshop at Hazelden Betty Ford in St. Paul and then met up with others from the recovery community for an evening concert by Grammy-winning hip hop artist Macklemore, a vocal recovery advocate himself. The workshop, entitled Sober Scene, was a 2023 Mobilize Recovery regional event — a collaboration between Hazelden Betty Ford, Mobilize Recovery and Zero Proof Collective to organize and support advocates passionate about creating more recovery friendly social spaces in the Twin Cities and beyond. Bold North Recovery of Golden Valley, Minnesota, was a planning partner for both weekend events.

Want more photos? See the album curated by Amanda Sterling using Microsoft Sway

For the Day of Service element of the tailgate, Hazelden Betty Ford chose to support deployed military and veteran families — a population the organization has also supported over many years with services, books, and digital recovery support products.

  • Attendees packaged 500 toiletry bags and 500 snack bags for holiday care packages, and wrote heartfelt letters, that local nonprofit partner Semper Fi Flo will be distributing to troops and veterans next month!
  • CVS Health donated to Hazelden Betty Ford the products for about a third of the toiletry and snack bags.
  • Through silent auctions and other donations, the event also raised more than $400 for Semper Fi Flo.
  • Hazelden Betty Ford also collected a large bin full of donated sports equipment that another local partner United Heroes League will distribute to help ensure that children of military service members are afforded every opportunity to participate in sports.

“We are so grateful to everyone who helped package snack and toiletry bags for our upcoming care package mission as well as to CVS Health and others for their donations, and to Hazelden Betty Ford and their collaborators for coordinating the service event and supporting our cause,” said Molly Ambrose, executive director of Semper Fi Flo. “A lot of deployed troops and veterans are going to get a boost and feel the spirit of this event when they receive their letters and packages this holiday season. It’s inspiring to see how committed the recovery community is to service and to know that hundreds of other Mobilize Recovery ‘Day of Service’ events were happening around the country on that same day.”

The Semper Fi Flo team is joined by Maj. Noel Cronin (left in second photo above, next to Semper Fi Flo Executive Director Molly Ambrose and Board Member Kati Tarnowski)

A big highlight of the tailgate event was the generous support and presence of four of Minnesota’s professional sports teams: the Vikings (football), Wild (hockey), Timberwolves (men’s basketball) and Lynx (women’s basketball). Collectively, they provided huge, fun displays; games; mascot appearances; DJ services and more.

Games, food and Hazelden Betty Ford’s John Engebreth on stage with the Vikings’ DJ Good Night
The Minnesota Wild tailgate team, Prowl from the Minnesota Lynx and Crunch from the Minnesota Timberwolves (surrounded by, from L to R, Amanda Sterling, Brigi McHale, Carla Fremlin and Joan Clark)

The tailgate also featured the resource tables of 35 community partners, a St. Paul Fire truck, and a fun, inviting Hazelden Betty Ford Alumni & Friends area. Multiple organizations also donated prizes for games, including the Vikings, Wild, local grocery chain Lunds & Byerlys and True North Elite, a group of passionate soccer fans who bring the noise to Minnesota United FC matches and come together to better the Twin Cities community.

Volunteers at the tailgate event included residents of Spirit House and Amethyst recovery homes as well as many Hazelden Betty Ford team members, alumni and friends. John Engebreth, executive director of Hazelden Betty Ford’s services and campus in St. Paul, shared brief remarks welcoming and thanking collaborators and attendees, and Minnesota Wild Membership Service Manager Jared Jenkins spoke as well.

Above: Dissonance, the Steve Rummler Hope Network and Twin Cities Recovery Project — a small sample of the community partners at the tailgate
(L to R) Ashley Sunderland, Jewel Bilges and Heather Young
Hazelden Betty Ford’s John Engebreth (first photo) and the Minnesota Wild’s Jared Jenkins

“It was awesome to see so many people celebrating recovery, demonstrating the service-minded value that the recovery community brings to our society, and making the promise of recovery visible to the entire neighborhood and the broader public through media and social media,” said Engebreth.

“Recovery is everywhere — at tailgates, sporting events, concerts; in board rooms, policymaking positions; and in all of our neighborhoods and families — and that’s an important message to send to everyone out there who may be struggling and thinking they’re all alone,” added Jeremiah Gardner, Hazelden Betty Ford’s director of communications and public affairs.

Gardner co-facilitated the Sober Scene workshop with Robyn Rhode from Mobilize Recovery and Jen Gilhoi from Twin Cities-based Zero Proof Collective. They accompanied participants afterward to the 6,500-capacity, sold-out concert by Macklemore at The Armory in Minneapolis.

“We’re so grateful to the more than 50 collaborators, supporters and community partners who joined with dozens of our Hazelden Betty Ford team members to make it such a memorable, meaningful and impactful weekend,” he said. “Together, we demonstrated that recovery represents a whole lot more than sobriety — it also represents hope, healing, connection, community, thriving and fun.”

Just a portion of the sober crowd (left) that showed up to see Macklemore
Above: Zero Proof Collective’s Jen Gilhoi (first photo) and Mobilize Recovery’s Robyn Rohde
Above: Mobilize Recovery co-founder Ryan Hampton shares a video message with Sober Scene workshop participants (first photo), and Willard Malebear, Jr., founder of Unified Theory Collective, shares input from a workshop breakout group.
Bold North Recovery’s Randy Anderson welcomes Sober Scene participants with one of his Facebook-famous selfies.

P.S. Minnesota sports teams went undefeated over the weekend, with the Vikings, Wild, and Minnesota Gophers football team all securing wins, and the United FC Loons earning a tie. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Twins baseball team went on to sweep their first-round playoff series just a few days later. It’s official — the Sober Tailgate Party inspires good luck and good play!

WATCH: Lydia Burr talks sober tailgating on WCCO TV

LISTEN: Carrie Bates talks sober tailgating on Minnesota Public Radio

Hot off the grill!
Vikings pride
Hazelden Betty Ford team members and ambassadors



Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

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