Tailgaters have super reason to root for champion Ravens

November 07, 2001|By Rob Kasper

WHILE MOST OF the tailgaters who set up their spreads in the parking lots around PSINet Stadium are rooting for the Ravens to repeat as Super Bowl champions, one group, Poe's Crows, has a large stake in the team's success.

If the Ravens make it to the Super Bowl in February, then six members of the Poe's Crows tailgating group will get a free trip to New Orleans. The Poe's Crows contingent won this shot at the Super Bowl several weeks ago, when the group's tailgating operation at Stockholm and South Sharp streets was judged "most spirited" by Lynne Tolley.

Tolley happens to be the great-grandniece of Jack Daniels, and she works at the whiskey-making enterprise in Lynchburg, Tenn. In addition to her duties as a taste tester, she has been traveling around the country this fall surveying the tailgating scene outside National Football League stadiums and picking one outfit per city as the town's top tailgating operation.

At the end of the NFL playoffs, representatives from the winning tailgating outfits from each of the two cities sending teams to the Super Bowl will be flown to New Orleans by the distillery.

Early in October, I followed Tolley around as she visited the sea of revelers who ring the stadium. It was one Sunday in a long season for the folks who use tailgate as a verb, and who have a very good time cooking in parking lots (see story above).Tolley was impressed with the "Poe Brothers" set up in Lot G. As he does every home game, Marc Scher had driven in from Pocomoke City and hooked up with brother Gary, who lives in Ellicott City. These Poe Brothers had put out a spread for about 20 regulars, making sure that each tailgater had his or her monogrammed 20-ounce plastic cup.

Tolley lingered near the purple bus in the Staples lot off Russell Street where Carl Harp and his crew of city and Baltimore County firefighters and their families cooked pit beef, ribs and a deep-fried turkey. A band entertained the gathering.

But after touring the parking lots, Tolley gave the nod and a tailgating trophy to the Poe's Crows contingent. It had a massive menu - crab soup, two kinds of chicken, ribs, pork, cold cuts, steamed oysters and raw oysters. It had a band. And it had a dish dubbed Jack Daniels Magic Beans whipped up in honor of Tolley's visit.

Rick Kuta, who made the beans, talked me through the recipe he had found in a brochure published by the whiskey maker. "For every 30 ounces of canned beans, you use 1/3 cup of Jack Daniels, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 small, chopped-up onion, 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 tablespoon of spicy brown mustard, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.

"You brown the onions in the oil, add the brown sugar and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then you add the beans and all the other ingredients and cook over a medium fire for 15-20 minutes."

One more thing: You make enough of these beans for 300 people. That is how many people the Poe's Crows feed on Sundays. Poe's Crows is a big operation.

When Tim Miller, who does a lot of the cooking for Poe's Crows, described a typical undertaking - serving five entrees to 300 people in a parking lot - to a caterer, the caterer reportedly asked, "You want a job?" The group got started back in 1996 by consolidating three small groups that had met in the parking lot of Mervo (Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical Senior High School) near Memorial Stadium, the Ravens' early home.

They now have more members, about 165, than parking spots. The lot they rent under Interstate 395, near the former site of Hammerjacks, holds about 90 cars. They pay annual dues of $35.

They have monthly meetings at which they elect officers and discuss menus. The minutes of their monthly meetings are posted on their Web site (www.poescrows .com).

They travel, as a group, to Ravens games in other cities. They set up a tailgate operation at road games, but their menu is much simpler. "We just buy a Weber grill, cook hot dogs and hamburgers in the parking lot outside the stadium, then, before we leave town, we donate the grill to the city," Kuta said.

In addition to the money they raise at their Sunday tailgate operation - visitors sampling the fare are encouraged make $10 donations - they have bull roasts and luaus in the off-season.

Proceeds, Kuta said, are donated to local charities, among them the Police Athletic League, St. Vincent's home for children, and groups affiliated with the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation.

Kuta admitted that the current complex tailgating operation is different from the small get-togethers in the Mervo parking lot. But he explained that he continues to devote hours of spare time to the operation because he likes to cook and he enjoys the companionship of the Sunday gatherings.

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