Tailgating as a way of life
Story and Photos by Becca Mann, NewsNetNebraska
When it comes to Husker football, missing a game isn’t even an option for the Downs family. The group, which consists of family and friends from both Nebraska and Indiana, has only been tailgating together for two years but has attended games for much longer.
Colleen Downs and her husband Brennan both attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and met through participation in the Cornhusker Marching Band. Colleen and Brennan graduated in 2014 and were married that summer. Soon after, the two moved to New Albany, Indiana, to work for a family company. Even though they no longer live in Nebraska, the family makes it a point to be back for every Husker game day. It’s a combination of things that brings the group back including time to catch up with family and friends.
Setting up on the south side of the Lincoln Journal Star building, the tailgate can be heard from blocks away. The chanting, laughing and cheering make it an easy spot to find. Not only does the group include family but also friends and anyone who wants to stop by. Colleen said every week gets bigger.
Making the trek
On game day weekends, Colleen, Brennan and Brennan’s father Brian, load up a 10-passenger van with all of the essentials and hit the road early on Friday morning. Once the group completes the 10-hour trip, they meet up with others in Nebraska at Misty’s or The Oven in the Lincoln Haymarket and catch up over dinner.
“Sometimes we get too rowdy,” Colleen said with a laugh. “Occasionally they’ll make us sit out on the patio.”
Making the trip every week is fun at the beginning of the season, Colleen said, but the constant commuting does get tiring.
Game days get started early for the group. They start setting up about five hours before kick off and eat and drink until an hour before the game starts. After that the group packs up and heads to their seats in north stadium, season tickets they’ve had for more than 15 years.
Tailgating across the nation
It’s not just home games that the group attends. Every away game has a group of the tailgaters in the stands. This year against Northwestern there were 12 of them, when Nebraska plays Indiana there will be nearly 20.
Last year the group was 13-for-13 at away games, including a trip to the Foster Farms Bowl. Colleen said traveling is not only a way to support the Huskers but also to see the country.
“If there’s not a football stadium in that city we probably won’t ever go to it,” Colleen said with a laugh. “If there’s a football stadium there we’ll be there.”
Tailgate is located on the south side of the Lincoln Journal Star parking lot near the loading docks.