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Tailgatin' in Indianapolis

A Sandy man wins a contest for the way he tailgates at Seattle Seahawks games
by: AJ MAST, A.P. Photographed before Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, Ind., Larry the Cable Guy, center, creates a little attention for Rick Wenger of Sandy, the man who created the best tailgating setup in the NFL. At left is Wenger’s friend, Shirley Hamry of Sandy.

Rick Wenger of Sandy has never been accused of not going far enough with any thing he's involved with, and that especially includes football.

Although he lives in Sandy and works at Suburban Auto Group, he's a native of the greater Vancouver, Wash. area, and is so involved with the 'home team' that he has had season tickets for the Seattle Seahawks for the past 14 seasons.

'This is my time of the year,' he said. 'It's what I live for.'

Wenger also went a long way to create the perfect tailgate parties, making the back of his truck a stage with a 'stripper pole' for dancing and music from the attached camper, where he sleeps the night before each game.

Wenger's self-designed installation on his truck caught the eye of Larry the Cable Guy, a spokesperson in all print, TV, digital and in-store advertising for Prilosec OTC, which sponsored a contest last fall called 'A Better Way to Tailgate.'

After searching the parking lots of NFL stadiums around the country, looking for parking lot pros who knew how to tailgate, Larry the Cable Guy chose Wenger's setup as the grand prize winner.

The grand prize was fitting for a person who is over the top with many things: an all-expense weeklong trip to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, Ind.

In a phone call from Indianapolis to the Post, Wenger said he has had an 'amazing week in Indiana,' and remembered he had been 'shocked' weeks ago when he received a phone call about his contest victory.

Wenger and traveling friend Shirley Hamry have been treated as royalty during the week preceding the big game, given media passes, free air travel, transportation, hotel, visits with big name football stars, thousands in spending money, a concert the night before the game, and the to-die-for NFL tailgate party the morning of game day, which costs about the same as a ticket to the game.

Wenger says he thinks it was the 'stripper pole' and stage on his truck that caught the eye of Larry the Cable Guy.

'That's why we get a lot of crowds around the truck,' he said.

Admitting that no one does any stripping, he said the people dancing with the pole are definitely having fun.

'It's quite the attraction up in Seattle,' he said.

During Seahawks home games, Wenger travels to Seattle and after breaking out all of the tailgate party stuff, he spends Saturday night in the stadium's parking lot near his tailgate buddies Gibby, Kyle and Kenny.

Then early Sunday morning, they begin to celebrate the victory they hope to see later that day.

'Early Sunday morning,' he said, 'we turn the music on, start the barbecue and away we go.'

After the game, there's a tailgate party that continues 'until the traffic dies down.'

Helping Wenger put the tailgate installation together last summer were John Kallen of Champion Collision in Sandy and Andy Brown, tire manager at Suburban Auto Group.

But being the person he is, Wenger can't stop with his current level of excitement. There's always a 'next season.'

'(This trip) just makes me more excited - for next season - to keep tailgating,' he said, 'because that's my passion and that's what got me to the Super Bowl. (Tailgating) is worth all the time it takes and the fun we have with it.'

At the Super Bowl, Wenger said he was going to make Seahawks fans proud by the amount of noise he and Hamry could make. Seattle fans, he said, have a reputation for being the loudest in the NFL.

'I have traveled to quite a few cities (following the Seahawks on the road),' he said, 'and no one touches our noise in Seattle.'

Asked what he could do to top this trip to Super Bowl XLVI, for a minute Wenger was speechless. But he finally said, 'I, honestly, don't think you top this.'