Food & Drink

August 6, 2014

Purple Party Unit

One die-hard TCU football family transforms an ambulance into a tailgating pad — complete with bar, satellite TV and game-day gear at their foam fingertips.

Kevin and Cathy Brown were celebrating their ninth anniversary at The Capital Grille one night in June when a restaurant hostess visited their table with a message.

“She told me, ‘The valet says there was a problem with your ticket. We have to give you this one,” Kevin says. “I didn’t think anything of it.”

But when Kevin presented his new ticket to the valet attendant, the car they arrived in had disappeared. In its place was Cathy’s anniversary gift: a white ambulance — and not for medical emergency reasons, though there was definitely some shock involved.

It was to be the Browns’ new parking lot party pad.

Cathy knew Kevin, always the grill master at their popular TCU football game tailgate parties, was looking to upgrade his tailgating vehicle to something with more space, convenience and flair. Plus, loading and unloading equipment from the back of a pickup truck was becoming increasingly cumbersome.

Through her research online, Cathy located a used ambulance for $3,700 in College Station.

“They’re really hard to find. I had to hide it all over town for a couple months,” says Cathy, a TCU alumna. “He was really surprised. He loves to entertain. That’s just part of his DNA.”

Over the past several weeks, the couple have officially transformed the ambulance into the Brown Tailgating Unit as they prepare for TCU’s home opener Aug. 30. The ambulance came with paramedic equipment, such as oxygen lines and a suction pump, inside, as well as working lights and sirens.

“We are changing the red lights to purple per the law, as the red can be problematic regarding impersonating an emergency vehicle,” Cathy says. “The lights will be purple and white come game time and, in the future, we are hoping to change the sirens to mimic the locomotive Frog Horn.”

Now adorned with a custom purple logo designed by a friend and interiors decked out in purple and white, the ambulance easily stores all of Kevin’s tailgating gear. It has been furnished with purple and white throw pillows, a cushy purple rug, a bar area ready for cold drinks and a flat-screen TV with satellite service. Kevin eventually will add food warming cabinets and a soda fountain.

As far as tailgate menu planning goes, that depends on game time and the opponent.

“We try to do things centered around who we’re playing. When UT was here, we grilled an entire rib-eye roast. I mean, you had to cook Bevo,” Kevin says.

And despite his Aggie roots, Kevin says he’s proud to show his purple pride.

“I grew up in Fort Worth,” he says. “So TCU has always been the home team.”

As the area operator for Zoe’s Kitchen, he knows a thing or two about food.

Thanks to several morning games last year, he became a pro at preparing breakfast casseroles paired with Cathy’s homemade cinnamon rolls. They shared with Indulge their recipes for two more tailgate favorites — Caribbean pulled pork with fruit salsa and Horned Frog cookies.

When TCU joined the Big 12 two years ago, football game attendance grew substantially, as did the Browns’ tailgate parties.

“At one of the games last year, we counted 67 people,” Kevin says. Among those who participate in the family pregame festivities are his mother, Kay, and daughter Abigail, 6, and son Braeden, 4.

Thanks to their larger party vehicle, this season — which will no doubt attract attention, especially if they throw on the purple lights and sirens — they’ll be prepared for any tailgate emergency that should arise.

“I was absolutely astounded and incredibly grateful that I have such a wonderful wife,” Kevin says, thinking back to the night he received his anniversary gift. “I definitely married up.”

As for her part, his wife says, “Kevin works so very hard each and every day, this is the least I could do to let him know that he is appreciated. Life is too short!”

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