One Giant Party
If you’ve ever agreed with someone who said, “There are two seasons in the south: college football season and waiting for college football season,” you’ll totally get this story.
Because it’s all about the lengths to which college football fans will go to make the most of game day. Traveling hundreds of miles for the game? Of course. Hauling giant tents to set up on campus? Yep. Camping out several days prior to Saturday’s game? If you’re in Louisiana, yes.
Kari and Kevin Brophy, both LSU grads, have seen it all. “A lot of people will roll in with these big RVs with electricity, and they’ll show up Wednesday and start grilling,” Kevin says. “One of the more unique things at LSU is when we play Florida, they’ll roast a gator at one of the tailgates, … over an open fire.”
The Brophys don’t go to that extreme. And they’ve found a way to tailgate that keeps up with the neighbors, but is all fun and no hassle. “A bunch of guys were going to the Alabama game in 2010,” Kevin says. “I found this company in an ad on an LSU sports website, and they set [the tailgate] all up. It turned out to be fantastic. You show up whenever you want on game day, and they’ve set up tents, TVs, couches, alcohol if you want it. It’s a fun, stress-free way to do it. You have a nice place to have all your friends meet for a game, and you’re not constantly walking around other tailgates and trying to find a restaurant or a bar that can hold a bunch of people.”
These days, Kevin and Kari have a plan. “We’ll have friends come in from Houston,” Kari says, “and fly to New Orleans. We’ll spend Friday night there and have a nice meal, then we’ll wake up Saturday morning and have a party bus or a big limo take us all to Baton Rouge.”
Kari says LSU’s tailgates are continuously ranked tops in the country for good reason. “When you’re walking down the street anywhere around campus and there’s a tailgate, you’ll have no idea who these people are, but they are going to offer you a beer, some food, a drink. If they see you empty-handed, your hands will be full. Someone who has never been to an LSU tailgate will walk around all the different tailgates and will probably find some of the best food they’ve ever tasted. There’s jambalaya, there’s gumbo, people are cooking in big crawfish pots over propane. The food is so good, it’s unlike anything else.
“It’s an experience. Everyone is so kind and hospitable – I think that’s the Louisiana culture. You don’t meet a stranger.”
“You see folks you don’t usually get a chance to see, you see the team and the band coming down the hill,” Kevin says. “The tailgate brings all the great things you love about the game right there.”
SMU has joined the tailgate party, too, although the Mustangs call it “Boulevarding” because the tents are set up along the boulevard leading to the football field.
“The president of SMU was the old [chancellor] of Ole Miss,” says Heidi Binet, who, with her husband Todd and friends Melinda and John Stevenson, hosts a tailgate at SMU’s home games. “Ole Miss has a famously huge tailgating event, so when the president moved to SMU, he brought that idea with him. Now there are really elegant tents lining the boulevard. Some people have semi-trucks with the whole thing as a bar with television screens. We’ve been known to roast a pig at ours and have a live band and a full bar with a bartender and a chandelier or piñatas. We’ve done it all.”
Heidi, Todd and John all graduated from SMU, and both the Binets’ and the Stevensons’ eldest daughters recently graduated from the school. “This started out as 10 old fraternity brothers, and now we have about 15 to 18 people join for four games each year,” Melinda says. “The people our age, their kids have now gone to SMU. That’s what we love about it, that it’s with our friends and their kids. We’ve really gotten to know their age group.”
“All the college kids come to our tent even though they have their own because ours is so fun,” Heidi says. “It truly is a party right up until they make you close down when the game starts.”
Editor’s note: See this month's Cooking Buzz column for tailgating recipes. Do you have tailgating stories (that you can share)? Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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