The year 2013 is just around the corner, and with it comes the 20th anniversary of the Carolina Panthers creation by the NFL owners. The Panthers became an official NFL team on October 26, 1993, becoming the 29th NFL franchise and first expansion team since 1976. Ever since their creation, the team has been heartily embraced by fans in both North and South Carolina, and every fall the team schedule is greeted with plenty of anticipation and fanfare.
Each NFL team has its own tailgating environment, and Charlotte is no different. Over the past 10 years, there have been several famous groups of Panther tailgaters, complete with customized vehicles and organized events.
The Tailgate Rescue Crew
Famous for its refurbished fire/rescue vehicle, which was named “Big Red,” the Tailgate Rescue Crew was a large, active community of tailgaters that lived by the motto that they were “Rescuing Tailgaters from the mundane” and “If you’ll get together for it – we’ll Tailgate it!” The Rescue Crew has been quiet in 2012, not updating its website or Facebook page, but fans know that Big Red is just in training somewhere, waiting for the next big Tailgate-with-a-capital-T. It’s only a matter of time before the Rescue Crew resurfaces and resumes its rightful place in Carolina’s tailgating history. Until then, there are over 60 videos on YouTube commemorating Big Red and the Rescue Crew’s former tailgating glory.
Real Cat Man, the Super Fan
If you see a man walking around Bank of America Stadium with blue hair, blue gloves and a cape with a growling panther head on the shoulder, be sure to wave and greet him with enthusiasm. You’ve just seen the famous Carolina Panthers Cat Man, the Super Fan! With a hairstyle reminiscent of a troll doll, the Cat Man has his own logo and his own action figure. He’s been featured on NFL billboards and brochures, and is a welcome sight wherever he goes. The Cat Man was voted NFL Fan of the Year in 2003, and his picture hangs in the Canton Hall of Fame. Check out his Facebook page for more information on this most visible of Panther fans.
Located in Uptown Charlotte, The Shed is a big, busy, loud, interactive tailgating experience for Panther fans of all shapes and sizes. For people who just want to have a good time without setting up their own tailgate, this place is great. It has an indoor/outdoor party zone, a huge projection TV, food and drink and lots of people. In addition, for those that want to bring their own coolers and BBQ grill, there is plenty of space to set up your own tailgate right outside the facilities. The Corona Beer Company is a sponsor of The Shed, and donations for entrance are accepted at the door with proceeds going to various charities including Fans Against Violence and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
No list of famous Carolina tailgating fans is complete without mentioning the PantherFanz. This large, boisterous group actively tailgates in the Pecan Parking Lot #B-3, located off of 601 South Cedar Street. Anyone is invited to pay a reasonable fee and enjoy this weekly themed buffet tailgate. The Big Black PantherFanz Bus has won best tailgating vehicle awards all over the United States, and welcomes anyone who has a good attitude and a big appetite.
Check out Tailgate Fan to keep the party going at tailgatefan.cbslocal.com.
S.L. Schmitz is a published author, and more of her work can be found at Examiner.com.