Tiger Den Concessions is an amber-lit beehive of activity at halftime of Friday night’s football game between Smith-Cotton High School and Jefferson City juggernaut Helias High.
The constant rain keeps the crowd down to a small band of die-hard fans, proud parents and students looking for something to distract them from the scoreboard, which shows Helias with a commanding 35-0 lead. Soaked to the bone, many make their way to the south end of the stadium in search of sustenance.
They come to Christine Brown’s house.
Brown, in her third year of overseeing operations at Tiger Den Concessions, hits the stand door just as the High Voltage dance team takes the field; she dons plastic gloves and joins her “partner in crime,” Shelly Williams, loading grilled hot dogs into buns and wrapping them in foil. In seconds, a dozen dogs are packed and placed in a warming bin, ready for sale.
Someone asks where to find the bags of Doritos. Brown instinctively points exactly to the chips’ spot on a shelf on the other side of the stand, not missing a beat as she continues rolling hot dogs.
Brown then turns her attention to the beverages, and shifts cold bottles of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Powerade to coolers near the sales windows, as other volunteers call out and fill an endless string of orders.
Brown is secretary of the Smith-Cotton Athletic Booster Club. A few years ago, she was approached in a grocery store and asked if she would help out with concessions. She agreed to pitch in, but the next thing she knew, she was overseeing the entire operation.
Her favorite part of the job is “all these people,” she says of the devoted concessions stand crew. Similarly, the hardest part is recruiting players’ parents and others to donate their time during games to help raise funds to benefit Smith-Cotton football programs.
“People have learned to dodge my phone number on their caller ID,” she says with a laugh.
Brown rifles through stacks of pizza boxes, consolidating slices with the same toppings together and stacking empties to the side. Next to her, Andy Williams dishes up one of the stand’s new offerings for this year, a barbecue beef sandwich.
“She works extremely hard,” Williams says of Brown. But before he can add to that thought, he gets an order for a hot pretzel.
That order filled, Williams continues: “She sees to it that everybody is where they need to be.” He pauses — another pretzel and a slice of sausage pizza.
“Her son plays, so during the game she is out watching him,” Williams says. “But before the game and at halftime, she helps out wherever she’s needed. She sets the example in here.”
Brown’s elder son, Robbie, is a senior offensive lineman for the Tigers. When Brown took the reins of the concessions stand, she wanted to ensure that players’ parents would not have to miss seeing their children play. She manages the stand for games at all levels — eighth grade, freshmen, junior varsity and varsity. So she’ll work the stand all through a freshmen or JV game so those players’ parents don’t have to miss a down, and they work varsity games so she can watch Robbie play.
Brown’s younger son, Jake, who plays on the eighth grade team, checks in to see if his help is needed. Not tonight, so he heads back out to the stands with an order of nachos in hand. Her husband, Rob, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs through games last season and says he misses it this year; still, he appreciates others stepping up so he can watch Robbie and his Tigers teammates on the field.
“We work hard and have fun,” Andy Williams says.
Brown checks to see if she can help in any other way before the second-half kickoff. All is good.
She gets to the stand at about 3:45 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game to start getting everything ready. And once the game is over, she and other volunteers will stick around until 11 p.m. or midnight cleaning up and preparing the stand for the next game.
“There are a lot of late nights,” Brown says.
She puts on her rain poncho again and gets ready to head back to the soaked stands.
“Thank you, everybody, for working hard and letting me watch my son. I appreciate it,” she says.
The stand pulls in about $1,200 for the night, which matches the average per-game amount. The money will help pay for football team expenses not covered by the ever-dwindling district budget.
“It’s all for the boys,” Brown says. “There is no personal gain in it at all.”