They get festive once each NFL season, throw a hell of a party, and a few brave souls take on the Swinging Chicken Beer Bong Extravaganza.
As special T-shirts reminded, this was the 21st annual Swinging Chickens party and the 20th anniversary of a tradition that draws about 100 fans to the corner of Abbott and West Streets.
“It’s a bunch of guys who went to college together,” Kevin Westerman said of his Ball State buddies, “and we’re growing old together.”
Westerman, Jeff Shriver, Bill Rollison and Jimmy Johnson plan well out the festivities months in advance.
“When we started, there wasn’t much tailgating. We wanted to do something special,” Rollison said. “The first party, there was 10 guys out here.”
The numbers have grown, which means Johnson adds to the menu each time. He’s the guy near three smokers, two grills and one fryer. This day, the Swinging Chickens party offered a pork loin wrapped in bacon and smothered with brown sugar bourbon seasoning, barbecue ribs, taco bar, beef brisket, fried chicken, chicken wings, bratwurst, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and baked beans.
“We’ve caught the fryer on fire before,” Johnson said. “I started out with just one grill and one fryer, and it’s grown.”
Jell-O shots in plastic needles with plungers give fans a swift kick of spirit. Shriver jumps in front of a microphone to play a harmonica with two musicians.
Inevitably, the Beer Bong Extravaganza brings fans together. It’s signed by the many who have chugged over the years. One beer is loaded into the container. A stuffed-animal chicken, dressed up in the opponents’ colors, is then hung by the neck as the device is engaged and the suds flow.
“It’s about food, family and fun,” Johnson said. “Every year, I look forward to it.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.