Bus Dedicated to Bears Tailgating Goes on National TV

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By Paul M. Banks

When it comes to football tailgating, one of the two major elements at work is usually controllable. Your team could be great (like the Chicago Bears were in ’06) or they might be awful (like Chicago was during most of the 1990s). But hopefully, what you’re eating is good. One place that always has great food is “Da Bus,” a renovated old school celebrating all things navy blue and burnt orange.

The tailgate surrounding it is THE place to be on gameday. Da Bus’s 20th season of tailgating includes an appearance on The Food Network Saturday night. This weekend, a national cable audience will see what Chicago’s best tailgate has to offer, as Da Bus will be featured on:

“Tailgate Warriors with Guy Fieri” Airing on the Food Networkda-bus2

Oct 17, 2009- 9PM ET/PT,

Oct 18, 2009- 12AM ET/PT

Oct 21, 2009- 8PM ET/PT

Owner/developer and Bears superfan Tim Shanley is hosting a watch party with his crew Saturday, October 17th from 3-9 pm at The Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, 1140 W. Jackson in Chicago. They’ll be watching the results of a tailgating competition held back on August 15th, when Da Bus and their crew went head-to-head in the parking lot of Ralph Wilson Stadium, with a Buffalo tailgating crew, prior to the Bears-Bills preseason contest. I marched with Shanley and his crew during the downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade this past spring. It also gave me a chance to talk with Shanley about the development of Da Bus.

“Basically, Timmy from Da Bus is a ten year old kid, that’s why I am out here. I need to thank my wife Elvira very much, who lets me do this. I fly in from Austin for every home game, and it’s over a thousand miles each way, 16 times a year. So I’m logging well over 16,000 miles and it’s tough, I can understand now how these players going on road trips, getting on airplanes back and forth all the time, how distracting that can be,” Shanley said.

Clearly he goes to great lengths to take care of tailgaters and Da Bus estimates over 5,000 served in their 20 years. “That’s what we like to do, serve tailgaters, that’s basically our premise,” Shanley said. An urban legend surrounds the story of how a former school bus metamorphosed into Da Bus.

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“Some of Chicago’s finest, rumor has it, were playing cards back in ‘89 in a junk yard, and the bus was won in that game. The bus rolled into the Soldier Field parking lot in 1990, and after about 10 seasons the boys get tired, their crew falls apart. We’re all from Bridgeport, he knew me and asked do you want the bus? This was a match made in heaven. And by that time it had fallen into disrepair- no transmission, no muffler, no breaks. There wasn’t anything left to it, but I saved it from the scrap heap, I rebuilt it repainted, and I got clever and real aggressive in marketing it,” Tim said.

Indeed Shanley used all the wherewithal and connections he had to spread the word about the unique vehicle he rebuilt from the bottom up. “I had some friends that owned clubs downtown and the Bears would frequent these bars, so I had the inside track and once I was able to get one on board, they all followed. The 1st guy to sign was Kordell Stewart, who did nothing but complain and he didn’t sign it properly. The next guy, Brian Urlacher came aboard, signed it then the whole defense came on. Once the players came out, they saw they had a place for the families during the games, and that was key because when the families came around then it really spread,” he said.da-bus4

Over 40 Bears players, from 7 decades, have signed the bus. The oldest is from 1946, Jim Kean, a member of the World Champion team and one of QB Sid Luckman’s favorite targets. Familiar favorites such as Ditka, Butkus, Hampton etc. are all here as well.

The popularity with former players and their families has made Da Bus, like the team itself, both a regional and national brand. “We get calls from every town of every team that comes in here, wanting to hook up with the bus. And you know first hand how fun our party is. Yourtailgate.com, tailgating.com- these are gentlemen who take care of it throughout the nation, I’m in close with them and the word of mouth spreads.”

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