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Tailgate Olympics

Fire trucks, mobile man caves, life-size Jenga ... Bears fans are pregame pros

December 14, 2011|By Ryan Smith | For RedEye

Here's a quick riddle: What's loud, full of beer and red all over at Bears tailgates?

The answer: Dave Prasczewicz and Jon Ackeret's fire truck. Equipped with a rooftop deck, a keg mount, an arm on the back to support a 50-inch HD TV and large subwoofers, it's closer to a party yacht than a rescue vehicle.

"It's not done yet," said Prasczewicz, 39, of Joliet. "Our joke is that eventually we want it to either float or fly."

Tailgating is more of an austere affair for many Bears fans, who stick to coolers of cheap drinks or burgers and brats out of the back of ordinary cars and vans. But there's a small community of superfan tailgaters who gather at the outer edges of the McCormick Place parking lot near 31st Street and Moe Drive south of Soldier Field who stand out.

A quick stroll around the maze of cars and hordes of fans decked out in Bears gear finds school buses, trailers, church vans, even Red Cross blood donation trucks converted into tailgating party hubs.

"We call this The Truck with a capital 'T,' " Chris Kelvin said as he patted the side of his 1986 GMC truck.

The interior of the custom-painted trailer hitched to the back of The Truck could almost be mistaken for a Bears fan's man cave. It includes a couch, TV, stereo, full bar, Bears memorabilia and a group beer bong inside.

"For us it's a way to get a lot of our friends and family to come tailgate," said Kelvin, 34, an emergency physician from Downers Grove. "It's way cooler when you have a setup like this."

Steve Litto calls his blue and orange bus "a big money pit" but says it's worth it because of all the fun he has tailgating.

"I've been going to games since I was 16, so I guess you could say this is a big passion of mine," said Litto, 29, of Mokena.

Litto is famous in the Bears tailgating world for his life-size Jenga game regularly played in the parking lot. Instead of tiny blocks, the game pieces consist of 80 4-by-4 boards stacked on one other. Players are required to set the wood they remove on top of the others, meaning the pile can reach up to 7 feet high before tumbling to the ground with a thunderous crash.

The game also has a "Truth or Dare" quality as some of the boards are also marked with wacky instructions such as "Sing a Bon Jovi song" or "Lose a piece of clothing" or "Take a drink if you're a Bears fan."

"I was outgrowing bags, so I thought this would be a lot more interesting," Litto said.

Brent Kody uses his Fun Funnel invention, meanwhile, for a tailgating game that transforms a beer bong into a reverse dunk tank of sorts. Two players sit across from each other and hold a tube to their mouths attached to a funnel filled with an alcoholic beverage. They take turns tossing bean bags at a small bull's-eye attached to the device. A direct hit springs the liquid down the loser's throat.

"This is sort of our family business, but we're also big Bears fans, so it's perfect for tailgating too," said Kody, 24, a Berkeley resident whose family owns KO Water Games. "It tends to attract a lot of attention here because people are like, 'What the heck is that thing?' "

But arguably the biggest attention-getter in the parking lot is the fire truck, which regularly attracts crowds of 70 to 100 people on Sunday game days with its rooftop dance parties and functioning emergency lights and horn.

Prasczewicz and Ackeret started tailgating at Bears games in 2005, but when they saw the 1973 Ford fire truck on eBay in 2007, they decided they'd found a better way to party. Ackeret, an ironworker by trade, welded a railing and a table to the top to create a deck and attachments for the TV and speakers and kegs.

"We did it as an excuse to get a lot of our friends together and celebrate Bears football, good food and to hang out with friends," Prasczewicz said. "But a lot of other tailgaters come and it becomes a huge party."

Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.




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