For Detroit Lions home games, Eastern Market is THE place for tailgating

Hot tubs, beer and camaraderie -- game day is party time for Eastern Market tailgaters.

Allie Gross
Detroit Free Press
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Left to right, Lions fans Angela Floyd, Kenyatta Mitchell, Susan Austin, and Ardiemis White, all of Detroit, walk around the Eastern Market during tailgate.

Janet Howard and Karen Johnson splashed around in a hot tub with Honolulu blue dye Sunday morning in a most unusual place — Detroit's Eastern Market. 

Donning bikinis and holding cans of beer, the friends amped each other up talking about their favorite team: the Detroit Lions. 

"We're the tubgaters!" Johnson, who lives in Trenton, explained, pointing to a group of about 20 high-spirited people imbibing, grilling and laughing around the tub.

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There was Denny Arney the Tub Owner, who seemed to be the leader of the group. Tracy Sekula the Loyal Lioness, who wore sparkly blue eye-shadow, a fluffy tutu and furry blue boots. And a man with a camera, documenting everything, known simply as the Tub Master.

The group of super-fans were just some of the hundreds who set up camp in Eastern Market on Sunday morning — a tailgating and party hub for those with and without tickets for the Lions game that afternoon against the Atlanta Falcons. 

Heading into Sunday's game, the Lions were 2-0 for the season and fans were hoping the home team would beat the Falcons, who went to the Superbowl last year. (Spoiler: It was not to be. But it was close, with a final score of 30-26.)

"They better win! They got the highest paid quarterback in the league," said Kenyatta Mitchell, 47, referring to the Lions' Matthew Stafford

Dancing with her friends in front of Bert's Market Place, Mitchell felt eager about what the day had in store. She also had a mission. 

"We represent the LGBT community," Susan Austin, one of Mitchell's friends, explained. 

The group felt overwhelmed by how welcoming and festive the atmosphere was the market. 

"It's just great," Mitchell said. 

Kevin Adam, 35, agreed. Sitting under a tent eating chicken wings and listening to his friend DJ Raw spin some jams, Adams looked content. 

While the Detroiter didn't have tickets for the Lions game — he was going to a Tigers game, instead — he decided to come to Eastern Market to enjoy the good vibes and celebrate his home team.  

"I'm always here," he said. 

Lions fan Tracy Sekula of Sterling Heights, shows off the Detroit Lions earrings that she made during tailgate at the Eastern Market.

Back over at the hot tub, Sekula, the Loyal Lioness, was prancing around excited to be a part of her community of Lions fans. 

The 51-year-old from Sterling Heights explained that she has been a Lions fan since she was 3 years old — a bonding activity between her and her dad. 

"My dad taught me that if you want to meet a nice man, you need to learn how to talk about sports. He said the Lions was a good one to be a fan of." 

Sekula is still single. "I'm single and seeking!" she said.

In reality, the tailgating was about keeping alive a family tradition. 

Sekula said that when her father passed away last year, he made her promise him two things: to continue to be a season ticket holder and to continue to bring her spunk to the game. 

Left to right, Sam Falk of Tecumseh, Josh Maxam of Ypsilanti, Brandon Smith of Tecumseh and Rob Wilson of Fenton play corn hole during tailgate at the Eastern Market.

As Sekula explained her connection to the game, Bryce Cobb, 50, from Novi made jokes nearby with Arney the Tub Owner. The two became friends years ago — back when the Lions used to play at the Silverdome — and bonded during a tailgate. 

"I love this guy," Arney said. 

For Cobb, game days are great for bonding, but it's also nice to come into Detroit and see what has changed. 

"It's awesome. When you see white people walking dogs in Detroit at night, you know it's come back," said Cobb, who is African American. 

"It's not a black and white thing," he added. "It's just a safety thing." 

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