Raise the Roof! Dancin’ Granny Leaves Legacy

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Mary Ann Filipi, the “Dancin’ Granny” in her element at a Creighton men’s basketball game. Photo courtesy of Brooke Wigdahl

By J1 Reporter Grace Sall

Billy Bluejay.

That’s who most would say the mascot for the Creighton NCAA college basketball team is. But season regulars would offer someone else who took that role.

Ask any passionate Creighton basketball fan about the “Dancin’ Granny” and you’ll probably see a smile and something along the lines of “Oh yeah, she was awesome!” But for freshman Brooke Wigdahl, that iconic woman was so much more.

For Wigdahl, the “Dancing Grandma” was really her great-grandma Mary Ann Filipi, and had a different role in her life than cheering on male college athletes.

“We had a very close relationship, she had babysat me since I was a baby,” she said.

Creighton basketball has been a big part of Wigdahl’s family. It was another activity they got to share with their grandmother, and Wigdahl loved the fact that everyone knew her “GG”.   Although any alumnae could tell you who she was, Filipi never was a student at Creighton.

Her passion for the game and atmosphere of Creighton basketball started when her husband took her to a game a few years after the Second World War. She never broke this tradition.

The community at Creighton welcomed Filipi at every game; she thought the games were very family-oriented. The crowds would even erupt into song every year when it was her birthday. Before Wigdahl was even born to meet her GG, thousands already felt they knew her.

“I thought it was cool, even if it was just in our little section of the world, and it felt good knowing that so many people would get to see and know this amazing and kind lady.”

Marketers for Creighton even went so far as to add the famous Dancin’ Granny to their pre game videos with her iconic words, “Come on Jays, let’s make some noise!”

Fatheads in the student section had those of players such as Kyle Korver and Doug McDermott, Jesuit Creighton priests, and of course, the Dancin’ Granny. Fans of Creighton basketball adored her as much as they did the game.

As anyone who’s experienced a Creighton basketball game knows, the traditional dance competition would always migrate the camera over to Filipi a couple times, with her signature blue jacket and “Raise the roof” motions, which is how she became so well-known.

Players would smile through the sweat and heavy breathing of that previous quarter, and fans would erupt in roars of approval, no matter the score of the game.

Filipi’s last Creighton game was in 2015, but her legacy remains in the hearts of Wigdahl’s family and all Creighton fans.

If you look closely at the next game, you are more than likely to see Wigdahl or other members of her family sitting in the same spots, with their grandmother’s seat empty.

No one will claim it, because even though she is no longer visible on the big screen of the Centurylink Center, she is in the minds of every single family member, player, coach, fan, or visitor that have seen and felt the powerful atmosphere of Creighton basketball.

“Everybody speaks to you. But I think people are all friendly, before this ever came about. You got a million friends out there, everybody has! That’s the wonderful thing about it.”

-Mary Ann Filipi, quote courtesy of
Brooke Wigdahl

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