Party returns for Lions game day tailgating

Detroit Free Press

Downtown Detroit was packed full of Lions and Tigers fans Sunday afternoon. And while Eastern Market was closed for tailgating due to staffing issues, it didn’t stop the fans from setting up shop elsewhere to party.

In a parking lot off Gratiot Avenue and the corner of Vernor Street upwards of 100 people came out to celebrate the Lions’ opening day. Cars, tents and RVs filled the lot with barbecue grills going and alcoholic beverages circulating.

One attendee, Detroit native James Criswell, 50, said normally he tailgates at the Eastern Market, but the change in locations did not change the atmosphere of his party.

“The energy is super crazy,” said Criswell. “Everybody is so happy to be coming off of COVID they don’t know what to do.”

Sunday was the first game of the season for the Detroit Lions against thefive-time champion San Francisco 49ers. The Detroit Tigers also played against the Tampa Bay Rays at Ford Field, but the Lions game was the first in which Detroit football fans could go out and tailgate in a somewhat normal way since COVID-19 first arrived. And the fans were all for it.

“I’ve had people calling me all week asking me where we were going to tailgate since Eastern Market was closed,” said Criswell. “Everyone is coming out just to be a part of the festivities.”

In the surrounding areas, cars lined the streets. Barricades were set to block traffic from entering roads too close to Comerica Park and Ford Field and, of course, the parking lots were jam-packed.

The Lions VIP Tailgate party hosted by the Bullseye Event Group took place at the former Punch Bowl Social Detroit space, about a block over from the Z Alley, where the CEO said there were about 500 people in attendance.

“The vibe was just incredible,” said Kyle Kinnett. “The atmosphere, the energy, the food, it was all incredible.”

The Detroit Rolling Pub carried a group of Lions fans through the downtown area, too. And over in front of Comerica Park, a group of people set up another tailgate party under a tent. Lawn chairs, coolers and laughter could be heard as fans walked past.

But, a little before 1 p.m., the streets began to clear swiftly as fans began making their way for the start of the game. And at 1:05 p.m., the San Francisco 49ers kicked off the first ball of the season.

Jasmin Barmore is born and raised in the city of Detroit. She covers the city’s neighborhoods and communities using her passion as her drive to give the voiceless a voice. You can reach her at or by sending her a message on Instagram or Twitter at @bjasminmare. 

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