BOURBONNAIS | Judging by their sheer excitement, you would've thought the three women from Hammond were finalists on "The Bachelor" and having dinner along the French Riviera.
Actually, they were at Friday morning's opening of Bears training camp, but try telling them that.
Veronica Rocio, Mandy Vanscoyk and Aracely Arredondo were pinned against one of the practice field fences at Olivet Nazarene University, straining to get a good look as their favorite Bears trotted by.
"It's awesome. I've been a fan since forever, but I want to see (Julius) Peppers," Rocio said. "I want his autograph, but I'm not gonna get it 'cause they said he never signs.
"But that's OK. I'm excited just to come here."
Like bounty hunters with Sharpies, the three women wanted autographs and it didn't matter who was wearing that jersey. They were prepared.
"We're gonna try to get them at all different angles," Rocio said. "We got three of us, you know, so we're gonna rush them."
The practice lasted less than 2 1/2 hours under an occasional drizzle, which was fine for Vanscoyk, who could've done without the human stampede when gates first opened.
"Born a Bears fan," she said. "But I think they need to set up different. It was like a mad rush. They need it to be more under control, just for the kids' sake."
None of the ladies can afford season tickets, though Arredondo has family friends who will occasionally share theirs.
"We went to our first game last year. It was amazing. I cried," Rocio said. "I wish I could get a preseason game ticket, but I can't even get that."
Friday was the first time Rocio and Arredondo had visited Bears training camp and the three never stopped smiling while taking pictures and chasing after autographs.
"(Saturday) is my birthday," Arredondo said. "I'm starting my vacation, so it's a pretty good vacation so far."
These are not fair-weather fans who show an interest when it suits them. All three closely follow their Bears on TV like a traffic cop on radar.
"Every Sunday, the jerseys go on," Arredondo said.
"I got my Build-A-Bear. His name is 'Sweetness,' and he sits next to me," Rocio added. "And I got my Bears blanket we pull out."
The Bears' first home preseason game is Aug. 15 against the Chargers. Their home opener is Sept. 8 with the Bengals.
The women have those dates memorized, as do all die-hard fans, and were more than willing to help a reporter do his job Friday as he approached the practice field.
"Need me to carry your tape recorder?" asked one.
"I can carry your camera," offered another.
And, finally, "I'll write the story for you."
This was their French Riviera with hash marks.
Can't beat it.