CLEVELAND - It looked as if the circus had come to town: brightly-colored wagons pulling into a big parking lot, music blaring from some of the vehicles, which had pictures of animals painted on their sides.
It had the look of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, but it was an entourage of fans who following the Cleveland Browns football team.
A man sporting hair dyed bright orange leaned out of the door of his vehicle and yelled, "Tailgate, baby! We've had a couple of beers!" He really had more than a couple, but he was part of several hundred people who are tailgaters on Sunday afternoons - or whenever the Browns play.
At the Municipal Parking Lot, within sight of First Energy Stadium, home of the Browns, the party begins well before the Browns even are bussed to the field.
When the gates of the Muni lot open at 7 a.m., disgruntled Browns tailgaters pour into the lot. Many are still angry that they had to wait until 7 a.m. Before the rules changed, they were allowed in at 4 a.m. Tailgaters like to beat the sun in getting out of bed and getting to the job.
This is a job especially for Scott Nunnari of Columbia Station. He is called the "mayor of the Muni Lot" because his Browns bus is so ornate. It was an old school bus Nunnari bought from a school district several years ago. The school people thought the yellow bus had seen its best days. Nunnari figured it had more years left in it, so he bought it for $5,000, put several thousand dollars more into it, painted it orange and brown, capped it with a Cleveland Browns helmet and set up a bar inside.
"Dumdog" the bus has the prime parking spot. Inside the bus, his wooden bar bears the photographs of former Cleveland Browns stars. The walls are decorated with more Cleveland Browns history. There are two seats from the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium where the team used to play. Next to it is a fireplace. "Propane," said Nunnari, his face beaming beneath a Browns cap. This Browns fan wore a Cleveland football jersey, bearing number 32, the retired number of Jim Brown, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who carried the ball during the 1960s for Cleveland.
All around Nunnari and his beloved Dumdog are other vehicles where owners are barbecuing ribs, drinking beer, playing a game of corn hole, or just mingling with others just like themselves. These are die-hard Cleveland football fans who will party before the game. At the game, they will shout their support for the team. Win or lose, they will be there. Both at the game and at the Muni Parking Lot.
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