Long-held tailgate tradition keeps attendees young at heart

  • Ron Bucklan and his wife Jan watch as the tailgate food is prepared. The two have been married for 60 years and have only missed one Husker football game. Photo: Lauren Brown-Hulme, NewsNetNebraska

You don’t have to be a twenty-something to have fun on a Husker football game day.

That’s the motto for Dale Schwartz of Omaha, 63, who has hosted pre-game tailgates for friends and family for 25 years.

Not yet 10 a.m. on the morning of the afternoon NU-Rutgers game, Schwartz and other tailgaters are already filling the back left corner of Lot 10 with loud laughter. They greet one another with slaps on the back and throw back red, yellow and green jello shots.

“They’re world famous!” Schwartz explains. “Even though we aren’t supposed to be drinking because we’re on university property…it’s tradition.”

Tradition has shaped the Schwartz tailgate. Their spot has shifted a few times and their crew has expanded from ten friends to about 40 – but everything else about their pre-game festivities has remained the same, Schwartz said.

“We’ve always been the first ones to set up at 6 a.m,” Schwartz said. “We’ve always had great food, we always have great friends and great conversations.”

Ron Bucklan of Omaha, 78, is a long-time attendee of the Schwartz tailgate. He has only missed one Husker football game his entire life – he was hospitalized for a heart attack and his doctor would not let him leave until noon on Saturday.

“We have no shores, mountains, nothing professional,” Bucklan said. “[Football] is the only thing Nebraskans have ever had that has come to be something special.”

Bucklan swam for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1957. This morning, he proudly wears his Nebraska class ring and a rubber wristband that reads “Once A Husker, Always A Husker.”

“That’s my only team,” Bucklan said. “This wristband reminds me that no matter win or lose, you’ve gotta be a fan.”

Schwartz agrees. He said remains loyal to the Huskers – and this tailgate tradition – despite poor team performance in recent history.

“I would have canceled my season tickets long ago because of the lack of progress,” Schwartz said. “But my wife said, ‘No we can’t cancel! We have too many friends that come to our tailgate.’”

If the trend of losses continues, their lot could become emptier, Schwartz said.

But with a 27-17 win against Rutgers occurring later that day, perhaps Schwartz’s prediction won’t come true.

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