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Rutgers Football Tailgater of the Week- Michigan Edition

Each week this season, I am traveling to one of the tailgating lots and choosing a group that personifies Rutgers tailgating. This week, I traveled to the Scarlet Lot, where we found our group.

This group is headed by Ed Chonko, Armen Varjabedian, and Mike Stapleton. Like many of our groups, they joined together slowly over time. They have been tailgating Rutgers games for over 10 seasons, but have been together for four years at this point.

For those new to information regarding Rutgers Tailgating, the Scarlet Lot is the premium lot. It sits literally next to the stadium, so getting to the stadium is never the issue it is for others. For example, getting from the Light Blue lot to the stadium is just about a one mile walk! I know that from personal experience. That is certainly not the case in Scarlet. Scarlet is the one that requires the highest number of “priority points” to get a parking pass in the lot. If you’d like to know more about priority points and how they are calculated for football and basketball, check this and this out.

To many others, Scarlet is thought of as the “rich people’s lot” which is definitely not the case, as I have confirmed in my conversations with several members. For the most part, it is long-time fans, who have either pooled resources, or have been fans for a long time. Both are methods for increasing your priority point totals. That is certainly the case with Ed, Armen, and Mike.

This crew has a great set-up. Not only do they have the typical food for their tailgate: this game’s menu included Mac & cheese, buffalo chicken, cheesy potatoes, baked ziti, meatballs, sausage, ribs, teriyaki chicken wings, burgers, dogs, Italian meats and cheeses, and chips / snacks, they have a TV running other games, a trio of canopies, and even a good sized knight to join them.

Check out Ed Chonko’s Rutgers “Ugly Christmas” t-shirt!

Beyond all that, however, is their ride. A 2006 Ford F-450, it formerly served as an Essex County Transportation Unit vehicle. A work in progress, they’re making it into a heck of a great tailgating vehicle, too. They regaled me with the plans for wrapping it in Rutgers vinyl graphics. Even without it, it looks pretty good. Check it out:

Ed Chonko standing with his Rutgers tailgating project.

Additionally, this group has a philanthropic side as well. Each year for the homecoming game, the group hosts a tailgate for Sigma Alpha Mu. Sigma Alpha Mu is a Rutgers fraternity that offers social and service opportunities, and teaches leadership skills. This is an annual homecoming event. Mike Stapleton and Armen Varjabedian, along with many of their regulars, are Sigma Alpha Mu alumni, so several years ago the group started hosting the homecoming tailgate. Quite a few of the alumni along with many of the current members stop by to join in the fun. Last year’s homecoming tailgate had over 75 attendees.

In addition to the Homecoming tailgate, Sigma Alpha Mu has been doing a golf outing in the spring as a fundraiser, raising to help out a fraternity alumni or family member who may be in need. It started when one of the alumni was battling cancer. Since he is self-employed, he ended up racking up some pretty hefty medical bills, so the group had the fundraiser to try and help out a bit. Thankfully, the original recipient of their work is now in recovery and doing quite well.

As most tailgaters will tell you, we may win the game or we may lose the game, but we have never lost a tailgate. As a result, these fans are hard-core, and despite the challenge of the weather like we had last last Saturday, these lots are always full, and the fans are there to cheer on the Scarlet Knights. If you’re in the Scarlet Lot, be sure to stop by and see this group. They are a lot of fun, and great people, too!