After 2,800 miles on the road, the Colts summer Fan Fests and Tailgate Tours have come to an end. Kicking off the ninth consecutive traveling marketing campaign June 4, the Colts hosted 16 events in 39 days. The Colts traveled as far north as LaPorte, Ind., ventured south to New Albany and made just a few other stops along the way.
Staying close to home for the first Tailgate Tour stop, the Colts set up camp in Braeburn Village. Hundreds of fans waited in long lines for an autograph from Jerraud Powers or Joe Reitz and possibly a chance to win free tickets to a game.
The first Fan Fest tour stop was June 14 in Wabash with nearly 1,000 Colts fans in attendance. The linebacker duo of Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner signed posters, footballs, t-shirts and even a few bare arms for their loyal fans.
"It's great to see the support from all of our fans at events like these. Everyone is always so enthusiastic about the Colts," said Angerer. "It makes you realize how important your job really is."
The Colts party didn't stop there. With Colts In Motion leading the way, the Colts headed north to LaPorte, Ind., home of the Slicers. Fans gathered at LaPorte High School to watch as a helicopter swarmed overhead carrying punter Pat McAfee and offensive guard Joe Reitz. Taking the stage, McAfee opened the event by declaring that "Colts fans are the best fans!"
LaPorte spared nothing when it came to making sure the Colts were the center of every Slicer's attention. "They've really rolled out the red carpet for us here in LaPorte. It's great to see how excited the fans are for Colts football even three hours north of Indianapolis," said Reitz.
Just a few days later the Colts visited Foster Park in Kokomo. Accompanied by entertainment from The Legendary Poco, the Colts took over the park for the evening. A little heat didn't deter the Kokomo fans from showing their Colts pride. Fans came out in full force getting autographs, registering to win tickets, walking through Colts In Motion and looking around the Pro Shop for new gear.
Long time Colts player Justin Snow made his first appearance of the summer at the Kokomo Fan Fest, proving to be a fan favorite. Reitz was just as impressed with the fans at his second Fan Fest. "It's awesome to see this amount of support from our fans in Kokomo," said Reitz. "This is what it's all about."
Next stop: Rushville, the smallest city to host a Fan Fest, yet crowds gathered by the hundreds to show their Colts pride.
Highly touted rookie tight end Dwayne Allen made his first Fan Fest appearance as an Indianapolis Colt in Rushville. Still getting used to the Indiana landscape, this Carolina native hasn't spent much time outside of Indianapolis. "I've never been to Rushville, but these fans seem like they love the Colts," said Allen. "It's cool to see that they're just as eager for football season to start."
Following the Fan Fest in Rushville, the Colts hosted a Tailgate Tour in Fort Wayne. Hometown favorite, Chandler Harnish made his first appearance of the summer to sign autographs for local fans. This Tailgate Tour proved to be one of the most popular of the summer.
The Colts began the second half of their tour in Princeton, Ind. at the Toyota Manufacturing Plant. Princeton Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant president, Norm Baffuno greeted nearly 700 fans waiting in line while also supplying bottled water as a relief to the intense heat. Free Fallin', a Tom Petty tribute band, provided fans with some tunes while they waited as well.
Fans were excited to see that the dynamic duo of Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner were back out on the road. "It's always so great to see how many fans want to support you," said Conner. "It's awesome to be able to interact with our fans at events like these."
The Colts didn't have to travel far from Princeton for their next Fan Fest in New Albany, Ind. With a backdrop of the Ohio River, the New Albany Fan Fest looked picture perfect. Even with temperatures higher than 100 degrees, fans still came to the event wanting to show their support for their team. One fan summed up the Fan Fest: "It might be warm out, but it's worth it."
Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers was glad to meet with the fans that were able to stand the heat. "This is an awesome opportunity for us to connect with our fans. We don't get to do that often," said Powers.
Even New Albany mayor, Jeff Gahann came out to take part in the Fan Fest activities. Gahann confirmed that New Albany is a city filled with Colts fans, though there was little doubt to begin with.
The Colts hosted a Tailgate Tour at Fair Oaks Farms July 9. A large dairy farm is northern Indiana, Fair Oaks Farms is a popular tourist attraction in the summer. Fair Oaks was happy for the Colts to stop by with players Anthony Castonzo and Adam Vinatieri.
Finally, the Colts made their last Fan Fest stop Wednesday, July 11 in Terre Haute at Deming Park. Equipped with Colts In Motion, the Play 60 Zone and plenty of giveaways, the Colts went all out for the final Fan Fest of the summer. Both Vinatieri and Castonzo made appearances at this event as well. Terre Haute fans were excited to meet the four-time Super Bowl Champion and last year's first round draft pick.
"My favorite thing about interacting with the fans is the stories you hear firsthand," said Vinatieri. "Like where they were we won the Super Bowl. You get to relate to the other side of the field."
Between the live music, autographs and giveaways the Fan Fests and Tailgate Tours were marked as very successful. Traveling to faraway communities like LaPorte and Princeton allows for fans to interact with the Colts when they might not be able to attend a game or event in Indianapolis during the season. The Fan Fest tour gives an opportunity for fans to connect with their team in a way that they normally wouldn't be able to.
50 hours of travel time. 32 hours of events. 12 staff members. 16 players. And more than 15,000 fans. All of these elements combined with a bounce house, quarterback challenge and inflatable slide made for a fun summer filled with "COLTSTRONG" pride.