~Written the morning of the final game at Hughes Stadium on Nov. 19, 2016 by Jennifer Clary Jacobs
In a way, you could say it’s all because of Hughes Stadium…
The Fuller family moved to Colorado in the early seventies when my dad, Fred, held football coaching positions, first at University of Colorado, then at Colorado State University. In those years, we lived and breathed football and I was a sideline kid who loved being a part of it all.
One of my earliest childhood memories is of Hughes Stadium, that giant concrete bowl under the “A.” It was 1976 and Bob Dylan had performed (and recorded) an epic concert at Hughes in drenching rain. Due to the soaking and the fans, the turf was destroyed and had to be replaced. My dad thought I’d enjoy watching the big machines at work and took me out to the stadium for the afternoon.
The stadium was bright and warm and basically empty, and I was happily running up and down the west stands, singing (my dad describes me as perpetually having my mouth wide open, either talking, smiling, or singing). Suddenly, a bee flew into my mouth and stung me; when I think about it, I can still feel bee fuzz on my tongue. I cried and ran to daddy, who took me home. I ate nothing but broth for a day or two until the swelling went down, but the memory of that day has not diminished.
The years and games blend together until Jr. High when I fell head-over-heels in love with the CSU Marching Band. As a little girl, I was always as interested in the band and cheerleaders as much as the game, but this was different, it felt different.
The memory of Drum Major Greg Gilmore, with his whistle, mace, and Q-tip hat, leading the high-stepping band out of the tunnel onto that field is remarkably vivid, and I was overcome with the need to be in marching band! Since I played violin, I decided to become a flag twirler.
In those days, the Fort Collins High School Purple Regiment was one of the best bands in the state, winning field, parade, and Winter Guard competitions each season. CSU held an enormous band day competition where the winning band performed at half-time, and FCHS marched on the Hughes Stadium field many times. As the local band, and a hard-working group of high school friends, it didn’t get any better than that!
I think every Fort Collins kid wonders if leaving the hometown is necessary to feel complete – UCLA and CU were options for me – but I’ve never been able to do it. Attending Colorado State University is one of my best and defining decisions; this university and town are my heart and my soul.
It could be argued that no one spends more time at Hughes Stadium than the marching band, arriving five or six hours before kick-off to load-in and rehearse, and being the last ones to leave after post-game performances. Game days are easily 8-10 hours, sometimes on quintessential Colorado fall days and sometimes in highly questionable elements!
The indelible memory of my first game day as a member of the CSU Marching Band at Hughes Stadium includes a sunrise rehearsal as kick-off was often at 11 a.m., the all-consuming feeling of the cadence being played in the tunnel before show time, and just about coming out of my skin when the cannon went off during the National Anthem (it was the tradition to not warn the freshman about the cannon, and the cannon used to be located ON THE FIELD in the north end zone!). But the most addictive and powerful feeling was taking the field at halftime, chin up, perfect posture, sun in our eyes, cheering fans, and that beloved Fight Song. This is what band kids do, it is what we live for!
I was never willing to walk away from those early Hughes Stadium feelings. It’s why I became a band kid, It’s why I helped build the Alumni Marching Band, it’s why I jumped at the opportunity to work for the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, it’s why I got a better camera. Being with the CSU Marching Band at Hughes Stadium is what I do!
I’m grateful that my daughter Ellie and I have so many shared Hughes memories as she grew up spending Saturdays under the “A.” It was also at Hughes Stadium where, over twenty years later, a certain Fred Jacobs tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I remembered him. Look at us now! (Fred and Jennifer were married in 2014.)
The wins, the losses, the friendships, the blazing sun, lots of snow, Sonny Lubick, tearing down the goal posts, Fum’s Song, the Border Wars, the tailgates, the night games, feeding the band, flag routines and drill, the sunrises, the sunsets, homecomings, lots of hugs, the Fight Song and Spell Yell, the cannon, the “A,” 1000s of photos, the “Ortal,” miles of marching, heartbreakers, and celebrations…my heart is full of them.
When I arrive at that empty stadium this afternoon and walk through that tunnel onto that beautiful turf with the giant Ram head in the middle, I will soak up one more game day at Hughes Stadium. Tonight, after the lights have been turned off and I’ve sung the alma mater with my band, I’ll linger into the wee hours and leave one final time with a lifetime of memories.