The Colts won’t be in the playoffs this weekend, but an end of season matchup was held outside of Lucas Oil Stadium last Sunday. It was a heated competition and the
stakes steaks were pretty high: $1,000 cash, a $500 Meijer Gift Card, a Colts team autographed football, and a $500 Colts Pro Shop gift card.
Before the lights in the stadium came on for the last Colts game of the year, they were setting up in Touchdown Town for the inaugural Colts Tailgate of the Year contest.
“We pretty much build a house every time we come out here. We all pitch in,” said David Stepleton.
Stepleton and his friends are the Sons of Tailgating. And they go way back.
“My main guys, we all went to high school together. We bought the bus in ’05. It kind of has a 2006 Super Bowl theme inside there.”
Over the years, life has changed for them, but one thing remains the same.
“We’re big Colts fans. But once you get older, we all have kids and everything, we have this in common, the Colts games. We come out and get together with friends.”
And they bring food. Lots of it.
“This is a pork loin. It’s on the bone. I cut them, sliced them, made a homemade dressing with bacon in it and then I wrap them in bacon. And we’re just going to grill them up, get them crispy,” said Stepleton, both the menu planner and grillmaster.
This week, for the purpose of the competition, there was a very specific theme: Indiana.
“We just want Colts fans and Hoosiers to know that the Indiana farmers are producing the food that they’re eating. So, it’s just kind of a fun little tie in between the Colts and Indiana corn and soybean farmers. And just to kind of show that spirit.”
And the Sons of Tailgating delivered.
“We have a cheesy potato over there, a southern style green bean with the ham in it. The popcorn is from Indiana, it’s still on the cob. You just heat it up and it cooks. A lot of it falls off, but most of it stays on the cob. It’s kind of neat. We’ve got the poppers, bacon wrapped poppers. And of course, our lovely desserts. The cake, bus shaped. We actually have some peanut butter stuffed poppers dipped in chocolate over there.”
Along with deviled eggs (from local farms) decorated like footballs.
The competition, Tailgate Alley, has a similar story. Lifelong friends and Colts fans who love to gather on game day.
“I get to be around my friends who, they’ve become way more than friends. Seriously, they’re like my family,” said Angie Tilse.
“We’ve all gotten so close to where some of us have gotten married and they’ll come to our weddings. There is a goal for some of us that want to go to all 32 stadiums and they’ve done more than half of them.”
Tilse and her husband, Nathan, bought a vehicle, a 1979 Chevy step van, which he completely refurbished.
“It’s 100 percent Indiana. From Union City, Indiana,” Nathan said. “Union City, Indiana was the original manufacturer of trucks and vans for the old Chicago Police Department back in the ‘40s.”
The converted paddy wagon is now the heart of their tailgate, keeping power and other valuables safe from the elements.
“It’s got a bathroom in it for the wife,” he laughs.
But like all tailgates, the food is the main element. And Angie coordinates that.
“It just depends. If we are playing Buffalo, we’ll have Buffalo wings or something like that. And sometimes we just have whatever. If it’s breakfast, sometimes we just fix plain old biscuits and gravy.”
In the end, the Sons of Tailgating took home the trophy for Colts Tailgate of the Year 2015.
— Indiana Corn (@INCornFarmers) January 4, 2016
But there were no losers in this game of Hoosier pride.
“It’s very Indiana,” said Kuhn. “And these two teams, they kind of have those lifelong friendships going on. One is from the north side, one is from the south side. Both are high school and college friends. So, it’s just kind of a fun, family feeling that brings them together.”
In the true spirit of tailgating and how it began.
“Farmers are kind of the original tailgaters. When you think about planting and harvest season, a lot of times, that’s where we eat our meals, are on the tailgate of the pickup truck in the field. So, it’s kind of a fun, little tie between corn and soybean farmers and the Colts.”
And a reflection of just how much food and football are a part of Hoosiers’ lives.