The air is crisp with the smell of fall leaves; a sea of people in red shirts stand and wave their arms to make a red wave throughout the stands, trumpets and drums play songs of triumph, and pom-poms encourage the fierce to be fiercer. Attending a football game is fun, loud, and full of adrenaline, but tailgating the game can be even more exciting.
Colorado State University-Pueblo has a lot of tailgating opportunities for fans. Whether you bring your own crew, join someone else’s tailgate at the Wolf Den, or go to the Alumni Tailgate, there are options galore.
Kathleen Carter, mother to number 29, Mitchell Carter, said, “Usually there’s about 30-40 [people] at ours.” She and her crew tailgate with food, drinks and laughter. “Every home game, we will be here,” Carter said.
Another popular tailgating group is the Bonfiglio’s Pack. Anthony Bonfiglio, an employee of CSU-Pueblo for 39 years, is the head of this group. “It’s grown weekly, almost every home game, ‘till we have about 60 people who show up now and I cook for them all,” Bonfiglio said. “It’s a joy to do that, it really is.”
Kennedy Gallegos and Brooke Slane, seniors at CSU-Pueblo, both said they have tailgated at every home game of this season. “I like the atmosphere and how everyone comes together to get ready to cheer on our team and how excited everyone is to go to the game,” Gallegos said.
Tracy Samora, Alumni Director at CSU-Pueblo, is a smiling staple at the Alumni Tailgate. “People love football, athletics, they want to come behind their team and support their team, so it brings everyone together,” Samora said.
The Pack Parking Lot
You only have to go as far as the parking lot to find some dedicated tailgaters.
Number 29 Mitchell Carter’s fan club is among the many who utilize this space for their tailgating needs. “I think it brings us all together before the game and get rowdy,” Kathleen Carter said.
It takes a lot of prep to get ready for a group like Carters’. “We did some last night, we do some this morning, we had to kind of work out the electrical outlets to keep it warm, things like that,” Carter said. They use electrical outlets located throughout the parking lot to help power their tailgate spread.
According to Carter, they have been tailgating at CSU-Pueblo for three years and they have made it to every home game and even make it to as many away games as possible.
The Wolf Den
It is easy to spot the Wolf Den. There is a large, blue, inflatable arch with red letters that read “Wolf Den” across the top. Inside is a grassy area reserved for Thunderwolf fans to set up tailgates. Tents, folding chairs, children throwing footballs, grills, and countless fans fill the den.
Inside the Wolf Den is where you can find the Bonfiglios’ Pack. They typically get started about three hours before the start of the game. “Every home game, wind, snow, sleet, rain, you know, whatever, we’re here,” Bonfiglio said. “If there is a tailgate, we’ll go.”
“The way this got started was obviously the drum,” Bonfiglio said. “That [drum] was ready to go in the dump at the end of the season.” The drum was donated to Bonfiglio and he decided to give it a second chance. “It looks nothing like it did when we got it,” Bonfiglio said.
Throughout the Wolf Den, there are electrical outlets available that tailgaters use to hookup their tailgating necessities. Bonfiglios’ Pack uses it to help power their various electric tailgate cookware. “I kind of upgraded this year to, it’s kind of like a camping stove,” Bonfiglio said. “We used to have just a little regular propane grill, but this is much better now, easier clean up.”
It is hard to find a group at the Wolf Den that is not happy and welcoming. “Everybody that shows up, even the people that I don’t know, they are welcome to come,” Bonfiglio said.
Students are also very involved with the Wolf Den tailgating. Gallegos, a Health Science major at CSU-Pueblo, said, “It’s really upbeat, and happy, and just positive overall.”
Slane, a Liberal Studies major at CSU-Pueblo, said, “I love the atmosphere, how everyone is just really happy and we’re really excited to just celebrate the game and it’s gameday, and we’re just real excited.”
Both students were tailgating together with a large group of friends. “My boyfriend, he always provides the burgers, and the chips, and buns and all of that,” Slane said.
It was also both of their first years tailgating at CSU-Pueblo.
Music can be heard from all over from tailgaters, the stadium, and from the CSU-Pueblo band.
Before the game, the CSU-Pueblo band, dance team, cheer squad, and color guard, work together to put on a show for Pack fans that travels through the parking lot, makes a stop at the Wolf Den for a performance, then they make their way down to the field.
The Alumni Tailgate
Samora has been the Alumni Director for 11 years. “I actually started the position when we were already into the season, so there was already kind of a plan in place,” Samora said. “I’m going to be honest, it was not acceptable to me, so I made it through that first season and then the second season, we changed things up.”
The Alumni Tailgate is a wonderful event put on by the Alumni Association during every home game. “This Alumni Tailgate, this alumni event, brings together so many generations, so many decades of alums,” Samora said. “Members of the community want to be a part of this as well, so of course, this event is open to the community, as well.”
According to Brett Holland, the Alumni Board President, “I was around when we started doing them [Alumni Tailgates], they were very small kind of get-togethers, and we average about 300 folks every tailgate now,” Holland said. “It’s pretty cool to see what it’s become.”
To get into the Alumni Tailgate, you must pay a small fee. For alums with an alumni discount card, or members of Friends of Football, Pack Club or Thunder Gals, it is $10 per person to get into the gate. For the general public, it is $20. “That includes food and drinks, which is beer, soda, water, a great buffet of food, all before the game,” Samora said.
The buffet table runs long and is always full. “This is all sponsored by local businesses,” Samora said. “We have Shamrock, we have Little Caesars, Taco Stop, A Little Bit of Heaven does our desserts, and then RMC, Miller products and Pepsi.” These businesses sponsor each and every tailgate, along with sponsors for each event. “Friends of Football always sponsors multiple tailgates, along with other local businesses throughout the season,” Samora said.
There is so much going on during the Alumni Tailgate, from indulging in the delicious spread of food and sipping on ice cold refreshments, to watching the Thunderwolves warmup from the balcony ledge that overlooks the stadium. “Electric, there’s no other way to put it,” Samora said.
“Keeping your alumni involved with the university is part of what helps a university thrive and
move forward,” Holland said. “Any outreach and support that alumni gives the university is always appreciated and helps gives future students the opportunity to go to school and keep it affordable.”
“If you haven’t been out here to experience an Alumni Tailgate or Pack Gameday, then you’re missing out,” Samora said. “There’s nothing more exciting.”
Tailgating does not only happen at home games for the CSU-Pueblo fans. There are plenty of options for tailgating at away games, too.
The Alumni Tailgate is available at some away games for fans to attend. “It depends on our fan base, it depends on our alumni numbers within a reign, and also playoffs, I always travel,” Samora said.
Bonfiglio’s Pack likes to travel for the away games, too. “This year we haven’t done much, but we have been to, obviously, the championship game, we’ve been to the Dallas Cowboy stadium with them, we’ve been to the Dakotas, all over Colorado and New Mexico, we’re there,”
The Food and Drink
Eating and drinking is the most popular thing to do at a tailgate. Everywhere you look there are grills, coolers, and crockpots.
Traditional burgers are a favorite among many, but Carter likes to switch it up with her favorite dish, buffalo chicken dip. According to Carter, this delicious dip contains, “Chicken, cream cheese, ranch dressing, Frank’s Red hot sauce and cheese.” To wash it down, she chooses an alcoholic seltzer. “Well ,we like the Trulys,” Carter said.
Bonfiglio’s Pack bring a variety of different foods to their tailgating get-togethers. “Two weeks ago, we had pork chops on a stick, last week we had sloppers, today we are having chilidogs, we’ve done kielbasa, in the next couple of weeks we’ll do brunch because it’s an early game, we do everything,” Bonfiglio said.
Slane’s foods of choice are burgers and she has a variety of drinks she enjoys at the tailgate. “Normally, Coors Light, White Claws, and always water,” Slane said. “It’s important to stay hydrated.”
At the end of the day, how you tailgate is not important. What really counts are the memories made, laughter shared, and the Pack pride brought to the table.