Groups: Battle Red Wagon Tailgaters

Local award-winning group impacts community while cheering for the Houston Texans

Written by Liza Winkler | Select photography by Marisa Hugonnett

CY-FAIR (CFM) – Decked out in red, white, and blue attire, the Battle Red Wagon Tailgaters set up a tent at Reliant Stadium each week during the Houston Texans’ football season to cook meals, cheer on the team, and share a common love for football. These local tailgaters are unlike most other football-loving groups. This award-winning tailgating team has made an impact on Cy-Fair through community outreach by being involved with various local non-profit organizations for over 10 years.

The Battle Red Wagon Tailgaters are two-time winners of the prestigious title, "Tailgater of the Year"

The Battle Red Wagon Tailgaters are two-time winners of the prestigious title, “Tailgater of the Year”

Humble Beginnings
Tad Hamilton, member of the Battle Red Wagon Tailgaters, says the tailgating group began in 2002 when the Houston Texans team formed. The idea for Battle Red Wagon Tailgaters initially began between group member Eric Filkins and a few friends who gathered to celebrate each football game. Since then, the group has quickly expanded throughout the years – from taking up a few parking spaces at Reliant Stadium – to spanning anywhere from nine to 12 parking spots at any given football game.

Hamilton, Filkins, Tim Lyons, and a few other men are instrumental to preparing and cooking meals during tailgate festivities while three or four of the members have specially designated menu planning responsibilities. Together, with friends and family members, an estimated 35 people tailgate with the core members weekly, and the group serves food to anywhere from 100 to 150 people each game.

Many members of the group first met while competing together on a barbecue team and share a mutual passion for cooking, explains Hamilton.

Game Time Prep
For Sunday football games, group tailgating preparations – like grocery shopping for meals – start as early as Thursday of the previous week. The day before the game is spent cleaning up tailgating equipment, pre-cooking meat dishes, and ensuring enough charcoal, propane, and ice are packed. The group creates the tailgater’s dream in orchestrated precision. “It’s kind of a mad house, but everyone’s got their own jobs and they know what their task is to get it done and set up,” Hamilton says.

Defensive end Antonio Smith filmed a commercial with the tailgater crew

Defensive end Antonio Smith filmed a commercial with the tailgater crew

 

Superstar Success
With growth over the years, the Battle Red Wagon Tailgaters have bonded and experienced Texas-sized success on and off the football field. The group competed for “Tailgater of the Year” in the Houston area four times since 2007, winning in 2008 and 2011 and earning the opportunity to judge the competition in both years following their wins.

Lyons says becoming the first group to win the tailgating award twice and proceeding to win “Tailgater of the Year” for the playoff edition last season were nice rewards for their hard work. The group has made videos for H-E-B on YouTube and was excited to be featured in one of the company’s commercials that aired on TV last football season.

Community Outreach
The core members of the tailgating group are also involved with the Chaparral Cookers, a non-profit organization. As part of the organization, the members cook meals and help other local non-profits such as Susan G. Komen, Junior Achievement, Texas Association of First Responders, and Special Olympics raise money at cook-offs.

Hamilton says his group has cooked at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for the past 14 years in addition to showing support for the Texans and non-profit organizations yearround. He says, “When we lost the Oilers, it was kind of like losing an appendage. So when the Texans came back in, we just jumped in full force and had nothing but fun and a little bit of success.”

Battle Red Wagon has been cheering on the Houston Texans since 2002

Battle Red Wagon has been cheering on the Houston Texans since 2002

 

Tailgating Words of Wisdom
Lyons encourages those who want to start a tailgating group to be passionate and allow growth to happen organically over time; tailgating can be just as exciting while sitting with a few friends in the back of a truck, as it is with a large group of people in a giant tent.

“Tailgating should be a social event to meet new people and invite them in,” Filkins says. The group has managed to avoid charging people to tailgate, like many others do, by pooling funds together to support activities and receiving support from outside sources. Hamilton says the Battle Red Wagon Tailgaters aim to promote the friendliness and hospitality of Houstonians by welcoming new people to their group and never turning anyone down.

LIZA WINKLER is a senior at Texas State University studying print journalism. She is a huge fan of the Houston Texans and the Battle Red Wagon Tailgaters.