Owen Oblinger attended his first tailgate at Bill Snyder Family Stadium Saturday. Owen will celebrate his first birthday next Saturday at the same tailgate, where his father, Tyler, has been joining his extended family for around 30 years.
“It’s great to be back and to see this parking lot full,” Tyler said.
Players and staff added to the environment with the new team arrival festivities. Team buses pulled up, and players and staff walked into the stadium through the parking lot and greeted fans to music from the Pride of Wildcat Land and performances from cheerleaders and the Classy Cats.
Head football coach Chris Klieman said reconnecting with fans during the team arrival and the game was “dynamite.”
“I told the kids, ‘Kansas State football is a special place,’ and that was a great reminder to our guys how special this place is and how great the fan base is,” Klieman said during his postgame press conference.
Offensive lineman Cooper Beebe said he appreciated seeing the fan support in what the team hopes will be a new weekly tradition.
“I got to experience it with my brother up in Minnesota, and that was something I thought was the coolest thing ever,” Beebe said. “Seeing all the fan support was amazing.”
The day also was a reunion of sorts for many families after tailgating was not allowed at the stadium last year. Shelley Shipman, whose family has tailgated at the south entrance to the west parking lot since 1993, said it was great to be back at the Bill.
“It’s been a longstanding tradition,” she said. “We’ve been here when it’s 125 degrees in the parking lot and when it’s 10 below.”
Shelley’s son Eric Shipman mans the grill at their tailgate and comes up with a unique menu. On Saturday, he was cooking up fried chicken and bacon-and-tomato sandwiches. Sometimes, the menu is tied to the opponent.
“If we’re playing KU,” Shelley said, “we always eat chicken.”
Several generations of Shipmans now attend the weekly tailgates. They share adjoining spots with a family Shelley knew growing up in El Dorado, the Doornboses.
“We all grew up together and now I get to see them with their grandchildren,” she said.
Many of their children graduated from K-State and Eric said they enjoy spending their fall Saturdays together.
“Family is the key,” he said. “It’s the annual pilgrimage.”
Oblinger said his family’s tailgate is a great opportunity to spend more time with aunts, uncles and cousins he doesn’t see very often.
“It’s huge being able to get together and for them to see my kid grow up and seeing my cousins is always a fun time,” he said.
Oblinger said he was looking forward to introducing his son to the tradition started by his grandfather decades ago.
“I hope he enjoys it as much as I do and one day he can take his kids to games,” he said.