Columbus Crew supporters march towards MAPFRE stadium after Crewsmas on March 2. Credit: Abhigyaan Bararia | Lantern Reporter

Ruby Tuesday, a regular, day-to-day bar and music venue transforms into a home for soccer fans every Saturday of the Major League Soccer season whenever the Columbus Crew has a home game.

On Crewsmas, which took place on Saturday, everything is taken a step further.

Crewsmas is an annual event that celebrates the home-opening Columbus Crew game, Dustin Lasko, assistant general manager of Ruby Tuesday, said. It is preceded by an event called Crewsmas Eve Bash, and both of these events are a way of getting all Crew fans together to enjoy live music and celebrate their love for the team.

The bands that performed Friday and Saturday were Glory Days, Joey74 and The Last Ones. Lasko said even the band names are references to the Crew, like “Glory Days” being a reference to the “Glory to Columbus.”

The music is mostly punk-rock, and all the bands that perform have a very specific reason for being selected: They are all made up of Crew supporters, Scott Fotheringham, general manager of the venue, said.

Lasko said the supporters have been waiting and planning for months since the end of the 2018 season. Everyone’s excited because, “OK, it’s Crew season again.”

The event this year was especially special as the Crew is finally under new leadership, one that isn’t “actively trying to move us to a different state,” Lasko said.

He said the soccer team means a lot to the people of Columbus who played a part in saving the Crew, as there might not have been any team left to celebrate.

“These are all the people that went out and spent their extra time and effort and money to save this team,” Lasko said. “So now, this is finally their payoff.”

Along with the music, Crewsmas Eve Bash also had two donation drives. The first was a canned food drive held by the venue where patrons could donate nonperishable canned food and get $2 off of their cover charge. According to a flyer on Facebook, the drive benefited the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

The other event was a more general donation drive, initiated by the Crew, accepting donations for things like blankets, toothbrushes and feminine hygiene products, Fotheringham said. This drive benefitted Gladden House and Van Buren Shelter, with Ruby Tuesday being one of the five venues to participate.

The venue has become more involved with soccer after Fotheringham started working there, Lasko said.

He said Fotheringham loves soccer and wanted to support his local team. He ended up having a big part to play in the formation of one of the biggest Crew supporter groups, the Hudson Street Hooligans, which was formed in the basement of the venue.

Now, more than 10 years later, Ruby Tuesday has become a regular haunt for a lot of the city’s major Crew supporter groups like Crew Union, Hudson Street Hooligans, Gate 5 Collective and La Turbina Amarilla, Lasko said.

The two-day celebration of the Crew culminates with a march to MAPFRE Stadium, Fotheringham said.

Lasko said it is usually someone from the Gate 5 Collective who gives the order for everyone marching to start getting ready for it. This year, it was AJ Hutchison, lead guitarist for Glory Days.

Around 1 p.m. on Saturday, a wave of black and gold took over the streets as the horde of supporters made its way to the stadium, blowing up yellow smoke and filling the air with chants such as “Glory to Columbus” and “Columbus ‘Til I Die.”

For Lasko, soccer is more than just a game. He said that it is a medium that connects people everywhere, and Crewsmas does a great job in getting people together under one roof.

“You see all ages, all different kinds of backgrounds; they all come together for one specific thing, and that’s soccer,” he said.