By Eric Butler: FNM correspondent
ARTESIA — Custodians of the parking lot at Artesia’s Bulldog Bowl made sure to get out to the stadium hours before Friday night’s game between Clovis and the host Bulldogs began. The reason? To block off certain prime parking spaces until two hours before kickoff.
But they were hours and hours away from keeping everyone off the lot.
At the lonely time of 12:30 a.m., in the northeast corner of the east lot, Clovis supporter Newlee Hester and friends began setting up tents, tables and brisket-cookers in preparation for a Clovis tailgate party later in the day.
“We’ve been cooking ever since and getting things ready,” said Hester, just as all the lots were opened to cars. “We haven’t slept a wink.”
Hester, who lives in Lubbock, said the tailgate set-up did indeed attract the attention of local police personnel.
“We probably saw about 10 Artesia cops this morning,” he said. “But we made them breakfast burritos and they were fine.”
Mike Mendoza, father of Clovis quarterback Jordan Mendoza, said that around 500 to 600 people — mostly clad in purple — got themselves brisket, hot dogs and hamburgers before going to wait in a long line for tickets. Some of the fans came in a single bus, organized by the CHS football booster club, after paying $35 each for the ride.
Not all of those in the Clovis chow line were Wildcats supporters, though.
Notably conspicuous by their presence were several members of the Sons Of Thunder Pyrotechnic team, who were responsible for fireworks at different portions of the evening.
“Oh, we’re doing it for Clovis people too,” joked Mike Dean, justifying the isolated orange blot in the sea of purple. “This is a special thing. It’s kind of nice to build up an esprit de corps.”
Even an hour-and-a-half before the game began, one of Dean’s predictions was fast coming true.
“This will probably be the fullest this stadium can be, I guarantee you,” said the Artesia resident.
“We see all these other colleges and high schools throwing tailgate parties and we wanted to throw one of this magnitude,” Mendoza said.
Asked if he was trying to deprive Artesia food establishments of revenue from Clovis fans, Mendoza didn’t deny that the massive cookout surely affected one nearby business.
“Sonic wasn’t too happy, needless to say,” he said. “But we fed their employees for free over here. I tell you what, Artesia’s opened up their arms to us and they just appreciate us being down here.”