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Life and Religion

Tailgate madness
Football season brings out passion – and appetites – in fans
Published Thursday, September 20, 2012 7:40 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

Kenneth Ware played hooky from church last Sunday. There was no way he was going to miss tailgating during the Carolina Panthers’ first home game of the season.

Kenneth Ware (left) and Fletcher Phillips of Charlotte man the grill before Sunday’s Carolina Panthers-New Orleans Saints game. Ware has tailgated at Panthers games since the team arrived in Charlotte in 1996.

The 53-year-old Charlotte native says Sunday tailgating has been his tradition since the Panthers came to town in 1996. Not even the rain could keep him away.

“We’re not worried about the rain,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to get out and get wet with your team. It’s all for the love of the game. We do it big every Sunday.”

Ware and his buddy Fletcher Phillips got started long before the game began. By 7 a.m. they were setting up in a vacant parking lot in Uptown. By noon, about three-dozen others had joined their party.

They pitched a few tents to provide some respite from the rain. The game was on a big screen television set up on a nearby table and a DJ was playing music. It was quite an impressive setup but nothing in comparison to the main attraction – the large, black grill.

“You can’t have a tailgate without the food,” said Phillips.

The fellas were grilling a whole turkey, pork ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, tilapia, sausage dogs, and Polish dogs.

“It’s one big party,” said Phillips. “We meet here and we eat, we drink and have a good time. We’ve been doing this thing for about 15 or 20 years now. It’s awesome.”

This year, like many other loyal tailgaters, Ware and Phillips had to relocate from their usual spot near Bank of America Stadium. They were displaced by construction for the new Charlotte Knights baseball park being built off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“It’s more cozy up here,” said Ware of his new location off North Tryon Street near Third Street. “There are more cars driving up and down the street. People are always coming by and checking out our grill.”

Unlike Ware, Phillips is not a big Panthers fan. His team is the Dallas Cowboys. They say the fact that they root for different teams is never an issue among them and the crew of 14 other guys they frequently tailgate with.

“We all have different teams,” said Phillips. “We have Redskins fans, the Giants, the Steelers and Atlanta. You’ve got all kinds of fans out here.”
Be that as it may, he concedes that he is in fact in Panther Nation.

“The Panthers rule around here,” he says. “But everybody is here just having a good time. It’s all about the game, the camaraderie, the food, the drinking and some good music.”

Related stories on The Post:

 - Kiss & Tell: Ballers' baby mamas and a jilted beauty queen

Where to watch on game day

The Panthers' Giant Challenge


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