Beer, BBQ, Husker football, and a man named Buda
By: Reid Hunsaker, NewsNetNebraska
Prior to Saturday’s Huskers football game in Lincoln, Nebraska, I had never heard of the small town of Leigh (pronounced Lee), Nebraska. But by the end of the day, it seemed like I knew the whole town.
Husker Saturday begins for Joe Hubenka and his son, Derrick in Humphrey, Nebraska at 4 a.m. It’s well before the sun rises. With 25 years of tailgating under his belt, Joe knows it’s never too early to start the game day party.
Joe and Derrick are ready to go by 6 a.m., but they are not off to Lincoln quite yet. They have to meet up with their long time friend Buda, who lives 12 miles east in nearby Leigh, Nebraska.
The three take Interstate 79 south to Lincoln and arrive at their tailgate spot by 7:30 a.m. Buda tells me he was disappointed they were not one of the first five people in the tailgate lot. I told them that was pretty impressive considering I didn’t get my butt out of bed till 7:30 that morning.
Walking around the tailgate lot around 9 a.m., I was immediately drawn to the aroma coming from Buda’s grill. The sizzle of the bacon and the firm handshake from Joe made me feel at home. “Grab a beer, we won’t squeal,” Joe tells me. “Maybe later in the day I tell him.”
Joe’s son Derrick has grown into the family tradition of Husker tailgating and going to the football game with his dad and two brothers. His favorite Huskers game was the Miami game a year ago. “It was just so loud and the atmosphere was phenomenal,” Derrick says.
Derrick talks about going to the game with his dad and brothers growing up. listen
Joe and Derrick love watching the Huskers play at Memorial Stadium. They have also gone to Indianapolis and Austin, Texas for the Big10 conference championship games. This year, Joe and Derrick will watch the Huskers play on the road in Piscataway, New Jersey against Rutgers and a visit to nearby New York City.
As the Hubenkas and Buda left for the game at 10:30 a.m., I told them I would join them afterwards to talk some more. And sure enough Buda offered me lunch when the game wrapped up around 2:00 that afternoon.
I told him I already ate and was pretty full from the breakfast he served me but he refused and said, “You look hungry, have some more, you’ll love it.” Buda served everything: burgers, steaks, wings, you name it.
Around 4 p.m. I told everyone I best go, which was tough because of how fun the day had been. Joe came up to me and said I was always welcome at the tailgate, which really meant a lot.
While I drove back to my home in south Lincoln, something struck me. I may not know where I will be working in the next couple of years, but it is people like the folks I met from Leigh that remind me there is truly no place like Nebraska.