Penn State

Tailgating ambulance a ‘source of pride’ for Penn State family

Penn State pride is generational in a lot of families, and Joshua Dunklebarger’s family is no exception.

He, his sisters and his parents all graduated from the university. He and his wife, Erica, met in the Blue Band.

Out of that love for the blue and white came a unique creation — an ambulance that Dunklebarger bought, converted and tricked out with everything one might need for a game day tailgate.

It’s painted blue and white, obviously, and has a special grill in the back where the stretcher would normally be that folds down and out. There’s a TV that can be mounted to the inside or outside.

“For us, it’s such a source of pride,” Dunklebarger, a physician from Chambersburg, said. “We put a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of work into making it what it is. It’s really kind of, what we think is an advertisement for Penn State and a source of pride of what type of fans they have.”

Penn State celebrities like President Eric Barron and wrestling coach Cael Sanderson have even stopped by their tailgates.

And the tailgates are also kid approved — Noah, 6, Caleb, 4, and Benjamin, 2, “absolutely love it,” he said.

Joshua and Erica have another little one on the way, and it’s safe to say that he or she will be a fan, too.

Friday night, the family participated in Penn State’s Homecoming parade with a float decorated with a patriotic veteran theme pulled behind the ambulance.

It had symbols from the different branches of the military and red, white and blue streamers and stars.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing this year, though.

For the past two years, Dunklebarger said they haven’t had any issues parking the ambulance in the same spot in the green lot next to Beaver Stadium.

The first game of this season was different, he said. He wasn’t able to park there.

Penn State’s recreational vehicle identification chart, which details what vehicles are permitted/not permitted and why, lists converted ambulances among those not permitted.

“These vehicles are not recreational vehicles. They are made for hauling large, heavy objects. They are inappropriate for parking in grass lots. In addition, the explosive capacity and stand-off distances for these vehicles as defined by Department of Homeland Security exceed our risk tolerance,” the chart states.

But, a compromise was reached, Dunklebarger said. Phil Esten, deputy athletic director, worked with him to get the family a parking spot in the overnight RV lot.

“The university has been great,” Dunklebarger said. “They’ve really worked with us.”

They were able to tailgate at the Georgia State game, and Saturday will be their second major tailgate of the season, he said.

The family is participating in the best overall tailgating competition, and they’re going all out.

Dunklebarger said his mom, Connie, is baking six homemade pies and two cakes; a family friend is going to DJ; other friends are bringing their Penn State bar to display; and there will be flowers and rose petals everywhere.

“We’re just gonna really do it up,” he said.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz