Like a giant-sized king entertained by court jesters, Roy Hibbert grinned and giggled beneath a blue and gold tent that barely contained his lanky limbs.
Exuberant Pacer fans filed before the 7-foot-2 center, vying to become his loyal subjects.
The Indiana Pacers and Hibbert held auditions Saturday at the Kroger parking lot in Nora for the second season of Area 55—a section in Conseco Fieldhouse reserved for the craziest of Pacer fans.
Hibbert once again purchased season tickets for the upcoming Pacers campaign to reward the 55 most-spirited fans from Saturday’s event and from 30-second video auditions submitted via www.pacers.com/Area55 by June 16, 2011.
Fans interacted with Pacers mascot Boomer and the Pacemates, while enjoying free hot dogs, bottled water, and door prizes.
Participants also received an autographed picture from Hibbert, who looks to add to last season’s enthusiasm.
“Last year, I didn’t know what to expect,” Hibbert said. “They had chants and posters, but I want more props this year.
“I want to see Fatheads of everybody.”
Many of the fans were alumni from last year’s Area 55. Hibbert said they must each re-audition for their spots, but wants to also add some fresh faces.
“We have some holdovers,” he said. “But, for the most part (it will be) half and half. Maybe some people from last year and some new faces.”
Hibbert is holding his favorite auditions close to his vest, but did admit he liked an early group of female participants named ‘Triple Threat.’
“I always said we need more women in Area 55,” he said. “So, I like what they bring to the table.”
The trio was comprised of co-workers from Indiana University Medical Group in Glendale. Susan Kiray is an Area 55 veteran and convinced Francis Killebrew and Erika Harris to join her this season.
The ladies performed hip-hop dance moves while singing a parody of DJ Khaled’s hit single ‘All I Do is Win.’
Killebrew wrote the lyrics to the song and said Kiray encouraged her and Harris to audition.
“(Kiray’s) just a die-hard Pacers fan from way back,” Killebrew said. “We couldn’t say no to her.”
They call him El Pacero
One of the most recognized members of Area 55, El Pacero auditioned in his patented blue and gold wrestling mask, tights, boots and championship belt, but refused to reveal his true identity.
“I am El Pacero, and that’s all you need to know,” he declared.
El Pacero told the story of how his father was a Lucha-Libre wrestler and wanted to follow in his footsteps.
“After college, I moved to Mexico City,” he claimed. “I trained and became the womens champion of the world.
“When Reggie (Miller) retired, I thought it was my duty to come back and show my support for the Indiana Pacers.”
El Pacero offered a logical explanation as to why he wrestled only women.
“Who wants to wrestle sweaty men?” he asked.
The self-proclaimed champion has attended 90-straight home games and said he plans to bring a new element to this year’s Area 55, but is unsure as to what it will be.
“Last year, I brought a gold-sparkled 1960 Slingerland snare drum and got to play snare drum for awhile,” he said. “But, that got stolen, somehow.
“So, I don’t know what I want to bring this year because it might get stolen, too.”
El Pacero sang a song he wrote in honor of Hibbert, while playing the ukulele.
On a more serious note, El Pacero said Area 55 members became like family.
“So, it’s pretty easy to become energetic and enthusiastic and chant really hard because you have all of your brothers and sisters right with you,” he said. “It’s been a really good time.”
He’s a super fan, super fan
Another familiar face auditioning from last year’s group and seen at just about every professional sporting event in Indianapolis was a man known simply as ‘Super Fan.’
Super Fan’s given name is Michael Hopson, and is known for his eccentric Pacers-patterned clothing, with original eyewear and hats. He tops things off with a blue Fu Manchu mustache.
Kathy Holland, who was affectionately called “Blue Bell”, accompanied Hopson.
Though she was too shy to be an Area 55 member last year, Holland said Hopson inspired her to audition this time around.
“When I saw how much fun it was, I had to get in this,” Holland said. “Those guys had a blast.”
Hopson offered some interesting insight into how he continuously fuels his passion for the Pacers, Colts and the Indianapolis 500.
“My motto is: live while you’re living and keep on giving,” he said. “Stay alive and create a lot of jive. That’s truth to the booth. That’s all the way ruling, baby.
“Keep a true spirit.”
Granny Gunnysack and Claude Hopper
A retired nurse, 71-year old Marjorie Shackelford and her son Carl Farmer posed as rapping hillbillies Granny Gunnysack and Claude Hopper.
“I ain’t no spring chicken,” Shackelford professed in the duo’s song.
Shackelford hopes to rejoin Area 55 after a season that included an injury resulting in two missed games.
“I broke my pelvic bone and I had to bring my walker to the games,” she said. “And then I graduated to a cane, and then I got healed.”
Farmer said he hopes to join his mother as a member of this season’s Area 55 after getting a taste of the fun last year.
“I came to one of the games with my mom,” he said, “and we had an absolute blast.”
Shackelford said being in Area 55 brought her a great amount of joy.
“It was just like going on a cruise every game with live music,” she said. “When you’re retired, you’re just kind of stuck in the house, so it was absolutely fabulous.
“I just loved it.”
All together now
Midway through the day’s festivities, a large group of Area 55 alumni joined together in chanting “Roy” to the opening tune of ‘Eye of the Tiger’, made famous by the movie Rocky.
Afterward, Hibbert asked fan Zachary Brown if the tight-knit group were friends prior to last season.
Brown said the group met at the first preseason game last year and quickly became close.
“By preseason game three, we were all best friends already,” he said.
When asked how he would feel if he were to miss this year’s cut, Brown offered a solemn response.
“One word- devastated,” he said.
Hibbert enjoyed interacting with the day’s group of over fifty participants. Pacers.com has also received many video submissions, but Hibbert said there haven’t been quite as many auditions as he expected by this point.
He believes this year’s competition has improved, however.
“It’s not as many people, but the quality’s a lot better,” Hibbert said. “Quality, not quantity.”