It’s an indictment of American—and Colorado—culture that so many events and activities are inextricably linked with having an adult beverage (or THC vape pen) in hand. Golfers hail the beer cart on the course. There’s no shortage of cannabis at any live music performance. There’s après ski, après mountain biking, après whitewater rafting. Weddings, funerals, bachelor/bachelorette parties, baby showers—all are open bar. And, let’s face it, it’s not a football tailgate if you’re drinking fizzy water.

That is, unless you’re attending an event where Duke Rumley is the host. Sober since 1989—after a two-year bender following the Grateful Dead led him to stop drinking—Rumley started nonprofit Sober AF Entertainment to give people a safe place to hang during concerts, sporting events, and other occasions where it somehow feels uncomfortable not to be drunk or high.

“It’s not an original idea,” Rumley says. “There are plenty of sober support groups, like the Wharf Rats who follow the Dead, the Phellowship who follow Phish, and the Jellyfish who follow String Cheese Incident. But my daughter, Jordan, and I wanted to expand the idea.”

In 2018, they did just that. Since then, Sober AF Entertainment has set up substance-free sections (the sober curious and sober supportive are welcome, too) at Colorado Rockies games, Denver Nuggets games, and Colorado Avalanche matchups; worked with the Global Dance and Decadence festivals to provide sober areas with water, ear plugs, and hard candy; and worked with universities in Colorado and across the country to deliver sober fun at college football games.

“We sometimes get discounts on tickets, but we always have food, NA beverages, and corn hole,” Rumley says. “We also do our best to balance fun with education and access to services. Mostly we try to make sure it’s not awkward.” Which, Rumley says, it really shouldn’t be. “But I know what it feels like, so we try to make it easy,” he says.

This season, Rumley plans to make it easy for fans of the University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes and the Colorado State University Rams to abstain from whatever substance they might otherwise choose to use on game day. “We don’t charge for the tailgates,” he says, “so just look for yellow balloons, and we’ll be there.”

Sober AF Entertainment’s 2022 Colorado Tailgates

Friday, September 2, 2022
Folsom Field, Boulder
8 p.m. kickoff
Sober safe zone opening time TBD

Saturday, September 24, 2022
Folsom Field, Boulder
Kickoff time TBD
Sober safe zone opening time TBD

CSU v. University of Wyoming
Saturday, November 12, 2022
Canvas Stadium, Fort Collins
5 p.m. kickoff