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Posted on Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

Scenes from University of Michigan football tailgate parties

By Ben Freed


The field in front of Pioneer High School is packed with tailgaters before Michigan's home opener against Air Force Academy.

Ben Freed |

It's that time of the year again. Football season in Ann Arbor means big games at the Big House, but there is also a whole lot of partying that happens before the game even begins. Here are some unique scenes of revelers who brought their A-game to the pre-game.

Ready to play:


From left to right: Big Steve, Rory Calhoun, Chuck Dogg, and Terry Mays tailgate before the Michigan-Air Force game.

Ben Freed |

Michigan might not have the same “12th Man” tradition as Texas A&M, but Rory Calhoun has come to every home game for the past 10 years in full pads, ready to jump on the field. Calhoun never played college football, but he dons a full Michigan uniform complete with pads and a helmet when he tailgates on the Pioneer High School field every home game.

Calhoun, who lives in Detroit, said he enjoys coming out to the game for the friends, the fun, and the “good family atmosphere” at his preferred tailgate spot.

He’s been in the same location for a number of years, and has made friends with many of those tailgating around him, including Solomon Woodson, father of U-M's Heisman Trophy winner and Green Bay Packer’s cornerback Charles Woodson.

Sweet Wheels


Andrew Bennington on the motorized barstool.

Ben Freed |

The Bennington family likes to have something new to spice up their tailgate every year. This year’s addition is a custom U-M motorized barstool that zips up and down the rows of RVs in the Pioneer parking lot.

Rick Bennington has had season tickets for 20 years and comes to every home game at the Big House. He bought the “vehicle” on Ebay and has modified it with the help of his sons to include a small Michigan helmet, a bottle holder, and a large American flag.

“There’s three things you have to remember when you’re driving it,” he told the next rider. “There’s no suspension, easy on the turns, and remember to watch out for cars!”

The visiting fans

Maureen Lindsay didn’t follow college football at all four years ago. Now that her son Brian Lindsay is a starting safety for the Air Force Academy, she goes to as many games as she can.

Lindsay, her two daughters, and a crew of neighbors and friends, made the trip from Chicago to watch Brian play on what might be the biggest stage of his football career.


Brian Lindsay's family and friends drove from Chicago to cheer him on at the Big House. Before the game, they soaked in the scene at Pioneer.

Ben Freed |

The Air Force tailgate was modest, and Lindsay admitted she felt a little overwhelmed.

“Everyone out here has these big set-ups and they’re all cooking their own food,” she said. “We just ordered from Jimmie John’s.”

But she added that the Michigan fans surrounding them had been extremely welcoming and friendly.

“They’ve been nice and we’ve gotten so many people saying ‘thank you for your service’ or ‘thank you for your son’s service.’

"The funny thing is, he doesn’t even start his active duty until next May,” she said.


Ira Mark lives the slogan of his tailgate crew at the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club

Ben Freed |

The Mark Conlin Army

Ira Mark and Bob Conlin played on the same baseball team when they were 12 years old.

“We started partying then and we haven’t stopped since,” Mark said.

The ‘M.C. Army’ has been tailgating at the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club for over 20 years. The group spans three generations of families and friends and numbers anywhere from 20 to 150 people per game.

“We’re here every game, and whoever shows up is our Army,” Mark said.

Tim Harrison is a member of the “army” and tailgates with the group before every game because “Ira won’t let" him go anywhere else.

These days his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren join him at the festivities. He started attending Michigan games in 1946 when he was a Cub Scout working as an usher in the stadium.

Ben Freed covers business for Reach him at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Bob Kwiecinski

Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 1:43 a.m.

I attended the AF-UM game today as an Air Force fan. My buddy and I wore our Air Force Jerseys and caps. We enjoyed the pre game tailgating, outstanding game and most UM fans and UM staff were very respectful to us and welcomed us to the "Big House." The tribute to the Servicemen was very nice. It was a great game. We were taken back and apalled by the TOTAL lack of respect from the UM Marching Band after the game for while the Air Force team and fans were gathered around the Air Fore Marching Band as they played and sang their Alma Mater Song. The UM Marching Band kept on playing and replaying the UM fight sonag. I think the UM Marching Band Director and Drum Major OWE a very deep appology to the AIr Force Academy and fans. When I attend games at Notre Dame, the FIghting Irish football teams comes down and stands behind the Academies as they sing their Alma Mater.


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

After a win I do not believe over 100,000 people and the home band stops their victory songs and waits for the opponent to gather and have their tradition. This was a HOME GAME and this is what happens. I stayed to enjoy both bands afterwards and the Michigan faithful were nothing but respectful and cheered for the Air Force band for their entire post-game show. The respect shown to the Air Force pre-game and at half-time was typical great from Michigan. I believe your comments or demands were uncalled for. One more thought - please be reminded of the cut Air Force receives from playing in the Big House. Grateful?


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

What you experienced is what I have observed my entire life. Some UofM people think that the world revolves around them. They think its cute to misbehave in the name of UofM. It isn't cute and its very disrespectful. I totally agree that UofM owes AF an apology for their disrespectful behavior towards the AF band. Maybe UofM should act like they have been there before when they win a game. They are poor losers and poor winners.... maybe worse winners!!


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

Perhaps the band thought it was a "dueling band" scenario. Since the drum major is a student, if anyone messed up it would be the band director. It may be a tradition to try and drown out opposing team's bands if they play.


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 12:30 a.m.

My father had the tailgate tradition. Full bar, spaghetti, munchies, and a whole lot of fun. He had the only Thetford Porta Potti around. It was installed in a 60's VW camper van. We had a blast!

Honest Abe

Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 9:58 p.m.

Again - UM Football will NEVER love you, as much as you love it! You fans are ridiculous.

Honest Abe

Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 5:31 a.m.

Yes Djacks, they should change since I am here.


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 3:32 a.m.

@Honest Abe- I'm sure Michigan Football was here WAAAAAAY before you moved here, so bad planning on your part I guess...Or should everything change now that you live in Ann Arbor?

Honest Abe

Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

Widmer- Do you mean why am I so angry about 30,000 + drunks who get on the road after the game, the people who puke in my bushes? These are things just to start off with. Super Villain? No, Honest, hard working tax payer, who is tired of 7 occasions yearly, to observe a bunch of bafoons watching teenagers toss a football - Yes.


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 1:05 a.m.

LOL why so angry about people getting together and having a good time? You sound like a super-villain.

Honest Abe

Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 9:59 p.m.

Now go watch your prissy, elitist school, swap sweat and bump bellies with each other.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

This is a massive tailgate. Who cleans up the mess on the Pioneer fields afterwards? It looks like this whole thing revolves around drinking.


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 12:27 a.m.

At $40 bucks a car I'm sure they can hire someone to cleanup. The returnable bottles and cans are gone way before the rest of the trash.


Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

In the past I believe it was Ann Arbor public school ground maintenance. I had a coworker who worked the parking and clean up at the school lot on football Saturdays, his dad worked for AAPS and they hired local kids to work the lots. The income from the parking far offsets the cost of clean up or they would not do it.