Colts fans flock to see the boys in blue

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Valerie Songer, left, and Vanessa Balsmeyer, both of Huntingburg, took a photo with Indianapolis Colts mascot Blue during Colts Fan Fest at Memorial Gym in Huntingburg on Wednesday afternoon. For more photos, click here.

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — Hundreds of people flooded Memorial Gym’s parking lot and adjoining Teen Outback’s lawn Wednesday afternoon to anxiously wait for Indianapolis Colts football players T.Y. Hilton and Malik Hooker.

The line to meet the players started forming hours before the players were due to arrive to the Indianapolis Colts Fan Fest.

“I’ve been out here for three hours,” said Cheryl Englert of Jasper, who was close to the front of the line. “I’m a Colts fan.”

Huntingburg resident Arnoldo Lopez also waited in line for hours, sporting a Colts cap to keep the sun from beating down on this face and holding his Colts jersey in his hand.

“I’ve never been able to go to a game, but I watch them on TV,” he said.

He was excited to meet the players and cheerleaders who arrived just after 5 p.m. They arrived via helicopter and landed on Southridge High School’s football field. The Raider football team greeted the entourage and a police escort led the group, who rode on the Dubois County Bombers bus, to the fest. They drove down Fourth Street to see the people and buildings decorated in welcoming blue and white.

“I’ve been a fan since I was a kid,” Lopez said. “You have to love the Colts in football and the Pacers for basketball if you’re from Indiana. But I like football more than basketball.”

“See this crowd?” he asked, looking at the line that wound around five times. “I don’t think this many people would come out for the Pacers — maybe for the Raiders, but not the Pacers.”

Addlay Mosely of Huntingburg, 2, ran through an inflatable football. For more photos, click here.

Englert recalled waiting for three hours in 2006 to see the Colts’ Super Bowl trophy that was brought to the Jasper train depot. “I was the first one who got to touch the trophy,” she recalled happily.

At Wednesday’s festival, she got the players to sign a mini helmet and took a picture with them.

“I’m a fan of sports, but I have one team,” she said, “Colts for football, Cardinals for baseball, IU for basketball. I’m really passionate for my teams.”

She has attended a couple Colts games, but watches them all on television.

“The seats are cheaper at my house,” Englert said. “And the beer is cheaper.”

J.C. Vanmeter brought his 7-year-old son, Jalen, and Jalen’s best friend, 7-year-old Drake Oliver, to the fest to meet the boys’ favorite player, Hilton. The trio came from the Vincennes area.

“I was already off today,” Vanmeter said about 45 minutes before the Colts players arrived. “I picked them up from school and we headed this way.”

Vanmeter said they’d already been in the line for about 30 minutes.

“Really?” Jalen asked, piping up. “We’ve been out here for a long time.”

“Yes, really,” Vanmeter told his son. “I know it seems like we’ve been out here for hours. You’ll be alright. You’ll make it.”

Indianapolis Colts safety Malik Hooker greeted members of the Southridge Class 2A State Championship football team at Raider Field. For more photos, click here.

Despite dealing with the heat, the boys were excited to meet Hilton and Hooker, Hilton especially. They had posters and cards for the players to sign.

“I really, really like the Colts,” Drake said. Jalen nodded in agreement before horsing around with his best friend again.

Vanmeter has been a Colts fan for more than 20 years. He’s so much of a fan that Jalen’s middle name is Colt.

After getting the autographs and photos with the players, the boys planned to play in the inflatables and see all the other features of the festival.

“We’re trying everything,” Jalen said.

“Yep,” his dad confirmed. “We’ve got time.”

The event was like a carnival, with inflatables that children could play in, food and Colts merchandise booths, the team’s traveling museum, games, musical entertainment on a stage and Play 60 zones where people could try out their football skills.

A woman came to the fest from Louisville, but wasn’t interested in getting the players’ autograph. “I just want to give T.Y. my number,” said Jamila (she didn’t share her last name). “Maybe I’ll get a boyfriend out of this.”

She worked her way to the front and slipped Hilton a piece of paper, which he took. She snapped his photo and left. “My job here is done,” she said.

The pop-up festival lasted for two hours, from 5 to 7 p.m. While some people left after meeting the players, Lopez said he was going to stay the whole time.

“This doesn’t happen all the time,” he said. “The players and cheerleaders are out here to meet the fans, and they bring all these things for people to do. I’m going to stay here and check out everything.”

The Colts set up two fan fests for the summer. The second one will be June 7 in Danville and will feature players Anthony Castonzo and Jabaal Sheard.




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