Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Tailgating at Falcon football games encourages camaraderie

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)  U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Regular tailgaters and wives of three 1961 Academy graduates, (left to right) Jo Jones, Nancy Wilhelm and Lynda Neel pose for a photo in the tent they spend every Falcon home game under. The ladies have been tailgating at Falcon football games since 1984. Tailgating takes place before every Falcon home game to bring fans together to get pumped for the game.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Regular tailgaters and wives of three 1961 Academy graduates, (left to right) Jo Jones, Nancy Wilhelm and Lynda Neel pose for a photo in the tent they spend every Falcon home game under. The ladies have been tailgating at Falcon football games since 1984. Tailgating takes place before every Falcon home game to bring fans together to get pumped for the game.

By Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex

21st Space Wing Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.    Airmen came together for the rivalry Air Force football game against Navy while tailgating in the parking lot outside Falcon Stadium at the United States Air Force Academy Oct. 4.

For every Falcon’s home game, the parking lot is filled with fans from all over    including Peterson AFB. Each fan, no matter how long they’ve been coming to tailgate, is there to get pumped up for the game, enjoy the camaraderie, and on this day, revel in the rivalry.

In the northwest corner of the parking lot, Peterson Outdoor Recreation tents could be found, beneath which plenty of food was available free of charge. The cheerleaders roamed around taking photos with everyone and getting fans excited for the game. Fans could be heard talking about the rivalry with Navy and how badly we needed to beat them.

“You can’t beat that rivalry with Navy,” Maj. Ben Payne, a U-28 pilot for the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla. said. “We want that trophy. It’s time Air Force got it back.”

Besides the rivalry with Navy, tailgating at the games allows Airmen to get together outside of work and have a good time, all while supporting the Air Force.

“For us, we came for the camaraderie and to boost morale,” 1st Lt. Natalie Perrotta, executive officer for the 1st Space Operations at Schriever said. “We get to hang out with everyone outside of the squadron and get to know each other on a more personal level.”

For some, like Payne and Perrotta, this was their first experience at a tailgating or football game at the Academy. For others, however, tailgating before the games is a long standing tradition.

“We’re the legacy classes — the first three classes to graduate from the Academy,” Lynda Neel, USAFA class of 1961, said.

Neel and her friends, Jo Jones and Nancy Wilhelm, are each married to 1961 graduates of the Academy. All of them have tailgated and attended every football game since 1984.

“It’s a social occasion for us,” Neel said. “The fall is when we can get together the most. And we love the Air Force of course —  we wear blue and white every week.”

Jones said they don’t even go in to the games anymore. They sit outside tailgating before the game and continue until the game is over.

“We used to go into the game,” she said. “Then we started coming out after the third quarter and then after halftime and then after the first quarter. We thought why do we even go in to the games?”

Tailgating is about camaraderie and coming together to support your Air Force family.

“Being in the military, your squadron becomes your family,” Jones explained. “No matter what it is, they’re there for you. And we’re here to support our family.”

Each and every home game will find Falcon fans filling the parking lot with grills, games of corn-hole and playing catch. The bond of brother and sisterhood that brings everyone together for some tailgating fun is a tradition that will continue for many years to come.

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