The Critterbago pulled up at its usual time.

4 a.m.

This has always been more than enough time for the group of fans from Streetsboro to take their place in line and wait for the gates to open for tailgating in the Municipal Lot a short walking distance from Cleveland Browns FirstEnergy Stadium.

But this wasn't your typical Browns season opener as hopes were high among fans that years of futility might finally be at an end.

Chris Quesenberry said he left out an "expletive" when saw vehicles of all shapes and sizes lined up as far as the eye could see when they arrived at the normal time.

By the time his Winnebago finally reached the front of the line, workers were closing the gates and waving off vehicles.

Quesenberry said let's just say it took some, ahem, fast talking and maneuvering to get the giant vehicle in in the nick of time.

This is a far cry from the past few seasons when spaces in the Muni Lot were plentiful and the expectations of those hardy fans keeping the pregame party tradition alive were low.

"This is like the Super Bowl," he said. "If they win this season, it is going to get worse."

But Quesenberry said he'll take the crush of extra fans — fair weather or not — as long as it means the Browns have a fighting chance to win on any given Sunday.

"I'm ready to see it," he said. "We've all been waiting a long time."

Mike Fete of Canton readily admits his crew from Stark County is relatively new to the Muni Lot.

They got a late start arriving at 6 a.m. but got lucky and slipped into a second line that suddenly opened up leading into the parking lot.

"There was a lot of yelling and cursing from those already in line," he said. "But I just kept driving."

Fete said most in his group don't even have tickets for the games but enjoy sitting around the RV watching it on a TV.

"We will be here until the snow flies and then some," he said.

For the first time in 10 years, Andy Bennekamper of Bath thought he wasn't going to make it into the Muni Lot.

He feared he was going to have eat his brats and Cincinnati Chili on the side of the road.

With folks lining up to get into the lot as early as Saturday night, Bennekamper said, he considers himself lucky to land a spot arriving at 5:15 a.m.

"Opening day is always exciting, but this is definitely another level," he said. "There's just so much electricity in the air for this season. Everyone is hyped up.

"It is like a playoff environment."

 

 

Craig Webb, who will be hearing "here we go Brownies... here we go... woof, woof" in his sleep, can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.