It’s football season, and in the southern US that means the beginning of the SEC (Southeastern Conference) way of life for many of us. When we refer to football, we don’t mean futbol or soccer, we are referring to the cultural activities that occur on Saturday nights in households and cities around the south.
This is a time where responsible citizens don facepaint and dress in all manner of fashion, in honor of their local university or favorite team. On college campuses everywhere, families pull in their RV motorhomes, break out the plastic partyware, and parents sit back drinking a cold one, usually with three televisions on silent, each with a different game, while the kids throw NERF footballs in the parking lot until the day’s meal is ready.
I don’t know how tailgating is done at other SEC schools, but here in Louisiana, LSU fans set the standard for tailgating. Now, many of you other schools will leave comments calling me a blasphemer or uninformed. I beg to differ. My husband’s tailgating krewe, Phi Party Jamma, has been gathering for almost 20 years for tailgating at LSU. At each game, there are always a few out of town friends who have come to see just what all this bragging is about. By the time they leave after an LSU home game, they are wearing a look of awe and shock. Many have even dropped to their knees, bowing in respect for having been allowed to experience such an awesome lifetime event. It’s just that good.
Our little Cajun family has season tickets and I’ve been personally going to LSU football games in Death Valley since I was nine years old. I’ve experienced home games and I’ve experienced road trips. I even married a man who asked to cut our honeymoon in Jamiaca short so that we could attend the LSU vs Texas A&M game since it would be the last time those two teams faced off for 20 years. Yes, I did give in and spent the end of the honeymoon in a Motel 6 with strangers (to me) sleeping on the floor of our room.
Here are some tips for tailgating if you decide to take it on the road:
Local Campus Rules: Check out the website of the campus where you plan on tailgating and make sure to read all of their rules. Many campuses do not allow alcohol on campus and some do not even allow tailgating. There may be parking passes required along with specified areas for visiting team fans to park.
Traffic Routes: Major universities work with their campus police and local law enforcement to help traffic flow smoothly before and after games. You may find that many of the routes you want to drive down may be blocked and traffic rerouted. Websites, news channels, and local radio may have the information you need.
Campus Map: Print out a campus map before you leave home. You might rely on a GPS system to help you get around when traveling, but with street closures, you may not be able to use the GPS.
Mobile Phone Carriers: Mobile phone usage increases in capus areas during football games, which may cause a delay in trying to send important messages (like where to meet) or making phone calls. It’s game day and not a day to make any important decisions, so be aware that coverage will be spotty, if at all. Also, many major universities have marketing agreements with certain carriers and if your carrier isn’t part of the agreement, you can go ahead and prepare for NO CELL SERVICE inside of the stadium. (Example: LSU has an agreement with Verizon. I use AT&T. Any data transmission I make from inside Tiger Stadium WILL BE blocked.)
Pack Everything: Pretend like you are preparing for the apocolypse or extended camping trip and pack all the necessities. Once you park, you won’t be able to drive anywhere and most convenient stores in the area are either shut down or have an hour wait to get in. Many of my friends who tailgate from their vehicles even pack a portable potty and place a tent over it. Food, drinks, grill, trashbags, utinsels, everything. Pack it. oh, and be respectful by cleaning up your mess afterwards.
Bring Your Own Shade: Even though the weather is starting to get nicer, you may end up in the middle of a parking lot with no shade. Bring along one of those pop-up covers. You’ll be glad you did.
Hydrate: This is the most important thing you can do. Many tailgaters imbibe in their favorite libations throughout the day. Water intake is important so that you don’t have to be hauled out of the stadium by ambulance right at kickoff.
Have Fun: Sure, there’s some mental competition with everyone rooting for their favorite team, but football is a game and it’s also a way of life here in the southern US. Keep it clean, and keep it fun. Remember – Don’t drink and drive!
Do you have some tips for tailgating during football season? Please leave them in the comments to be entered to win a tailgating prize pack that includes an EZ Grill portable grill, one Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka limited edition flask, two Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka drink coozies, and a Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka t-shirt.
One comment per email address. Former contributors of TravelingMamas.com not eligible to enter. Winner must be at least 21 years old and live in North America (I’m paying shipping costs), and must claim prize within 3 days of being notified that they’ve won. Bonus entries for tweeting and liking on Facebook (leave a comment for each way to count). Comments will be rescued from spam and winner chosen randomly via Random.org. Contest end Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm CST. Winner announced sometime the next day. Prize provided by EZ Grill and Firefly Vodka.
Winner Update: Thanks to everyone who entered. Congratulations to comment #4, Susitravl, who was randomly chosen for this tailgating prize pack. Have a safe football season and remember, don’t drink and drive.