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Tailgating in the Buff

Boulder Is Great Place to Catch a Game

(This story was published in 2005).

By: Todd Heustess

(Editor's note: College football writer Todd Heustess will make tailgate pilgrimages to at least five college football games this season and write about his experiences. He would love to be joined by other Outsports readers. His trips are sponsored by Be Gay Tours.)

When I lived in Hermosa Beach, many of my friends were Colorado alums who moved west to the beaches of Southern Cal. All of them had fond remembrances of their college days in Boulder, and crazy stories of CU football game days.

To me, a tailgating aficionado, it sounded perfect: a stadium in the middle of a party-happy campus located in the picturesque foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I made my first trip to a CU game this past weekend, and while the game was not all that interesting, a 39-0 victory for the Buffs over the Aggies of New Mexico State, I had an amazing time soaking up the atmosphere of Boulder and the CU campus on a football Saturday. Coincidentally, Boulder Pride held its annual Pride Fest Block Party on Saturday afternoon in downtown Boulder, which gave me an opportunity to talk to the locals and see if I could find any gay football fans. Much to my delight, I discovered there were a few and while there was no gay tailgate scene per se that I could sniff out, I was lucky enough to meet a handful of gay students and alums of CU that love their football.

Cincidentally, Boulder Pride held its annual Pride Fest Block Party on Saturday afternoon in downtown Boulder, which gave me an opportunity to talk to the locals and see if I could find any gay football fans. Much to my delight, I discovered there were a few and while there was no gay tailgate scene per se that I could sniff out, I was lucky enough to meet a handful of gay students and alums of CU that love their football.

For those of you not familiar with Boulder, it is city of about 100,000 located about 30 minutes northwest of Denver. Boulder is like two towns in one: One is the University and it’s 30,000 plus students and the other is the liberal-minded, small town with its tree lined streets and single family houses.

Many of the residents are young families who work in Denver or at the University and while technically Boulder is a suburb of Denver, it feels nothing like a typical American suburb. Instead it is a small-town with a great quality of life for families and a huge university. In the middle (literally) is the downtown area where students and residents mingle and mix and it was there at the Pearl Street Mall (a pedestrian street with shops, bars and restaurants, much like Lincoln Road in Miami or the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica) where the Boulder Pride Block Party was, a pretty big event this football weekend, attended by over 2,000 people.

At the Pride Block Party I met Adam Paluka, 20, a Junior at CU from Indianapolis, and the Events Coordinator for the CU GLBT Center. Adam and his friends gave me the inside scoop on the tailgating scene at CU games, which was not really gay but definitely was gay friendly as Adam’s normal tailgate crowd was mixed with a few gay friends and a lot of his straight buddies.

Adam said that sports is very important in his life, especially because it is a major component of his connection with his Dad. Adam said he came out at 16 and his father did not take it well but that over time he came to accept Adam. Adam said that their shared love of sports (he’s a Colts fan, his dad a Steelers fan) helped them maintain their relationship and helped his Dad overcome his fears of his son being gay.

The game against New Mexico St had a very late start, 8 p.m., which left plenty of time for tailgating. Folsom Field, the 53,000 seat stadium is right on campus and many students tailgate at their dorms before heading over to the game. I started my tailgate “research” at The Sink, a popular bar just southwest of campus on Hill Street.

The Sink was definitely a hopping pre-game spot, a sports-bar that was full of TVs, alums, and cheap beer. Before the game, the scene on Hill Street was mostly alums. After the game it was crawling with CU students, trying their best to make sure that CU gets back on the Princeton Review list of top party schools in the country, as it inexplicably dropped off this year. As I meandered from Hill Street back towards campus, the tailgate scene grew with the smell of meat on the grill and the sight of thousands of bright yellow clad fans enjoying their pre-game rituals with friends. I talked to a lot of students who said they probably wouldn’t make it to the game, or if they did, it would be around half-time. Everyone I talked too expressed surprise that I was writing about the game for a gay sports site but all thought it was “cool” and they kept offering me beer and drinks. As the sun set behind the Flat Iron Mountains (clearly visible from every vantage point on campus) it made for one of the most picturesque tailgate scenes for sure.

Folsom Field, home to CU football since 1924, is a stately, horseshoe-shaped, multi-purpose, brick stadium was a sea of bright gold this September night. The crowd, about 45,000, was raucous and loud, never more so than when Ralphie IV the 1,300-pound buffalo that is CU’s mascot charged onto the field with his handlers and the football team. As game-day traditions go, this has to rank up there among the top for sure.

The game went as expected, with the Buffs dismantling the Aggies. The rout allowed for an early exodus to the on-campus parties, Hill Street, and downtown Boulder. And that’s when the REAL fun started. Go Buffs!