Lions fans prepare for first Eastern Market Thanksgiving tailgate since COVID

Posted at 11:37 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 23:38:51-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It’s going to be a busy Thursday in downtown Detroit with the Turkey Trot, Thanksgiving Parade and the Lions looking to continue their winning streak.

This year will be the first Thanksgiving since the pandemic that tailgates will be in full swing in Eastern Market.

"Down on the field and gain a Lions victory!" exclaimed Lions fan Ron "Crackman" Crachiola.

Crackman has been a season ticket holder for 44 years and never misses Thanksgiving.

“I've seen Lem Barney play on Thanksgiving Day, I’ve seen Billy Sims play and of course Barry Sanders play,” Crackman said.

However COVID-19 changed the tradition. Last year, Eastern Market was closed to tailgaters. But still, Crackman made a pregame visit.

“I had my Lions hard hat on and my cut-off bibs, and there’s a tear in my eye," Crackman said. "The market was a ghost town, no people around.”

This year, the tailgates are finally back, and the Bills Mafia is coming to town

Buffalo Bills fan Hans Steiniger lives in Sterling Heights and is the founder of the nationwide Tailgating Hall of Fame, to which Crackman is proudly a member.

“Some people call me the Godfather of tailgating,” Steiniger said with a smile.

Steiniger will be at the game Thursday and says he knows of a few hardcore Bills fans who are making the trip.

“It was really exciting to see that on the schedule and we snatched up tickets immediately,” Steiniger said. "I expect you'll see a lot of Bills Mafia showing up.”

Along with the Turkey Trot and the parade, Lions tailgaters will be packing into downtown. It's a boom for businesses like Vivios in Eastern Market.

Manager Dan Esslinger says they can serve up to 500 Bloody Marys on any given game day. Despite shortened hours — closing by 12:30 p.m. that day — the Lions make Thanksgiving one of the busier days of the year.

“It's short, but it’s fast and short,” Esslinger said of the Thanksgiving workday. "Now that tailgating is back, it’s a tremendous difference.”

Although rivals on the field, these superfans say they’re more like family. After two long years, this family gets to spend Thanksgiving in Eastern Market together again.

"It’s just great,” Crackman said. “It's just getting together with not only our tailgate but the whole city. The Turkey Trot is down there plus the parade day. It's just an awesome set up.”

“It's a lot like a family allowing another family to be apart of their Thanksgiving dinner celebration,” Steiniger said.

The Eastern Market tailgate lots open at 7 a.m. You can find more information on its website.

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