Who is the Panther City Hellfire?
By: Paul Buckley
Welcome to the Vaqueros Story Project, where we will celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary season by sharing stories from Vaqueros lore. My name is Paul, and I am a writer and educator living here, in Cowtown aka Funkytown aka Fort Worth–my adopted home. The history of Vaqueros Football Club IS the history of Fort Worth, and so our celebration of the team will also be a celebration of the city and the remarkable people who call it home. Which means we want this blog to feature your voices, your memories–what is your Vaqueros story?
For our second installment in the series, I sat down with Brian Price and Adam Perez, who loom large in the past and present of Vaqueros fandom. Brian was one of the founding members of Panther City Hellfire, the club’s independent supporters group, while Adam currently serves as group president. We met up at HopFusion brewery on the Southside to talk about the history of the group, the grassroots nature of soccer supporter culture, and what it means for the Vaqueros to represent Fort Worth. The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Paul Buckley: Tell me about the origins of Panther City Hellfire.
Brian Price: I was one of the people that started Panther City Hellfire. We met with the ownership group and they were telling us about their plans for the club, and that kind of thing. Hitch [team owner Michael “Hitch” Hitchcock] put us in touch with another group of people who were looking to start a supporters group as well, so basically we all smashed together. We went with the name Panther City Hellfire for the group because we wanted to keep Panther City in there, and we definitely wanted to mix in a little bit of Fort Worth history too, with Hell’s Half Acre and really pulling in Fort Worth’s wily past.
PB: There seems to be something really positive and communal about the grassroots nature of soccer supporter culture. Can you talk about that?
Adam Perez: Panther City Hellfire is a way for us to participate in the Vaqueros Futbol Club, not a team in the American sense, but a club. That’s our way of feeling like we’re a part of it, because afterwards we can go be with the players, we can go be with the coach, they’re going to be right here drinking a beer with us, they’re doing their part on the pitch and we’ll do our part to support them when we can. So it is that grassroots part of bringing everyone together, you know how Brian talked about how Hitch brought everyone together collectively and they had the same mindset.
PB: How has that translated to the way you organize and run the group?
BP: I wanted to make sure that the Hellfire was steered by people that cared about each other and cared about the club and cared about the game. Because really, since Day 1, Hellfire has always been an ever-flowing group, there’s no centralized membership, we don’t have membership cards or fees or dues or anything like that. If you want to come hang out with us and sing and play drums and chant then you’re in Hellfire!
AP: That’s what we always tell people, to be a member you don’t have to do anything but join us.
BP: Show up!
AP: Like us on social media, find out where we’re gonna be, come bang some drums and be loud and just show up.
BP: Maybe buy a shirt or two [laughs]
BP: Maybe buy a scarf.
PB: What does it mean for the Vaqueros to represent the city of Fort Worth?
BP: Us being Fort Worth born and bred, we’ve been begging for this town to have some representation for forever, so being able to have a club here is phenomenal, it means the world. I’m forever grateful to have had the Vaqueros here in town for ten years, especially because if they would have come in as a higher level team at the time, I don’t know that they would have lasted very long quite honestly.
AP: And the players wouldn’t have the connection with the city the way they have in the past, because they would have been all pro players. Guys like Joseph Cervantes and Rio Ramirez, Mr. Vaquero and Mr. Vaquero Jr, they’re homegrown, they were young players coming in, and they grew with the team.
PB: I know the team has played at several different venues over the years. Which have been your favorite for watching games?
BP: I think LaGrave was the most fun for just the location factor and the memories of that time, just being there with everybody, and a major group of us being so new to each other, and getting to know each other, it was awesome. Outside of that, TCU because the pitch is pristine, and it’s a fun place to tailgate and hang out. Martin Field was so much fun, being right on the touchline. I loved the community block party aspect of it, you know, where they had a little space for the kids to kick around.
AP: And with us being there, they improved their facilities. Jon [Carney, owner of the Chat Room Pub and Usual, and part owner of the Vaqueros] got together and built a whole broadcasting booth and two bench areas, the Vaqueros rented folding stands that they let Texas Wesleyan use now, they re-did the pitch where it used to drain, they re-leveled it, so it doesn’t puddle up anymore, it doesn’t smell like a swamp, and so the last couple years we played there it was actually playable. Going to Farrington Field, they actually re-did a lot of the marker boards for them, and they helped us out with opening the concession stands, they actually got to use their concessions more than they would, so I mean everyone pitched in a little bit. TCU they went out of their way to give us amenities that we didn’t even know were available.
PB: Looking back at the first 10 years of the club and looking ahead to the next 10 years, what makes you most excited?
AP: We look back at the last ten years and see where we’ve come from... you know, Brian’s personal growth with his work to owning his own design firm, me and a few other guys with our kids who were single digits in age and are all graduating. So thinking about ten years from now, they’re going to be grown adults doing what we were doing twenty years ago when this thing started. So the next ten years in advance… well, I’m thinking about this year more so than ten years from now, and just like we always talk about, let’s make this year better than the last, let’s make sure we get more people here than we did last year, let’s make sure we promote more than we did last year, let’s get more merchandise out than we did last year, not necessarily sell more, but let’s get more of it out there… I want every year just to be better than the last year, and by whatever means that is, we have more people attend, we have a facility to play, we did tailgating better, we organized better, we spoke to each other better, we bonded with the team better, everything just better than we did last year, if we’re here ten years from now that would be amazing…
BP: Oh yeah
AP: …but then we’re all gonna be in our mid-fifties, and I hope at that point I’m really not a part of it in this manner, I hope we have a younger generation taking it over.
BP: See that’s what I was gonna say, for my wish for ten years, that we have a younger generation of people coming up that take over the mantle, that build it bigger and stronger.
[End of interview]
If you are interested in being a part of Panther City Hellfire, you can follow them on social media to get the latest updates on events.
Facebook @Panther City Hellfire
Plus, we want to hear from you! What are your memories from the first 10 years of Vaqueros football? What do the Vaqueros mean to Fort Worth? What do they mean to you? We want to feature your stories here, as a part of this blog. Drop me a line at email@example.com, and help us tell the story of the Vaqueros, together.