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This article was published 22/8/2019 (463 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NFL tailgating in Winnipeg is where the steaks are as rare as a full parking lot.
At the back of a black truck, Michael Brisson barbecued steaks Thursday, while his friends gathered in lawn chairs with beer koozies in hand. In a sea of Green Bay Packers gold, white and dark green, he proudly wore his Winnipeg Blue Bombers jersey.
For Bisson, spending a summer night tailgating wasn’t new, but doing it outside of IG Field prior to the city’s first NFL game was. The Packers took on the "home team" Oakland Raiders in a Week 3, neutral-site pre-season game.
"Tailgating at the Bombers stadium is a lot of fun. A lot of people come by, you heckle, you have people walking down the street, you just have a lot of fun with the competition — especially the Banjo Bowl," Bisson said, referring to the annual home game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders as the biggest tailgate party of the year.
It keeps him coming back for more. Thursday’s tailgate, however, fell short of expectations.
"I was a little bit disappointed with the amount of culture that’s coming out of the stadium," Brisson said. "There’s no music, there’s no entertainment. I was expecting more of an NFL tailgate party."
At the barbecue, Brisson removed well-seasoned steaks from the grill, sliced them generously and announced to his group of friends it was time to dig in.
The smell of the steaks, homemade beans and coleslaw drifted a few vehicles over to the next tailgate site.
Over the flames, Barb Olivier kept an eye on her husband’s grilling skills to ensure the hamburgers were on par for their party of eight.
While she said she is mostly a Bombers fan, she admitted she had to consult her NFL-loving husband on what to wear Thursday.
"I asked him what colour what I should wear today, and I picked pink, so I’m neutral," said Olivier, whose husband was dressed in a white polo shirt, crested with a Bombers W.
Behind the Olivier family’s gathering was a game of bean-bag toss, with approximately a dozen Raiders fans dressed in silver and black.
Winnipegger Luke Nolan joined his friends and family from across Western Canada for the NFL game.
"Been a fan since I was 16, and I’m turning 49 coming up," Nolan said, noting he would have attended the game regardless of price.
With paint-covered faces, the group returned to tossing bean bags into the customized lawn game set decorated with a Raiders logo.
Elsewhere, the Thomas family trio sat on the edge of their pickup truck, eating pizza and looking out onto the stadium. Tommy Thomas said their avid football-watching family purchased tickets as soon as they were available.
"It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us, that’s how we looked at it when we bought the tickets. Did they cost a lot of money? Yeah, but it’s an experience," he said.
"We are both pretty big Bomber fans, me and my son, but unfortunately, she’s a Riders fan," he said, looking over to his spouse, Randi.
"This is more unifying for us," she joked, pointing at a necklace of mock cheese slices draped around her neck, and a Packers-themed cheese-shaped hat on her son Burke’s head.
Meanwhile, aside from traditional sports memorabilia, the Condon family made their way into the stadium with signs in hand. Johnny Condon, 11, held a message explaining he spent his allowance on tickets.
"My dad told me (tickets were on sale), so he’s like, ‘Yeah, we should go.’ But I spent some of his money, too," Johnny admitted.
Darcy Condon said it was worth the drive from Calgary for his sons to experience the NFL.
"(Johnny’s) a diehard Packers fan... It’s the first (game) for the two of them," he said.
Despite the small attendance for the tailgate parties, crowds entered the stadium with big smiles.