How did you spend last weekend watching football?
At your local sports bar in front of the 52-inch LCD television? Did you set up shop outside your favorite team's place of business, the back of your truck packed with ample supplies of beer, brats and charcoal?
It is prime tailgating season, that time of year when both the NFL and NCAA are getting into full swing, the weather is perfect and your alma mater is scheduling its homecoming activities. But how unique is your own tailgating tradition? Check out the scene at these big football schools, as fans party the way they know how -- in planes, trains and automobiles (and boats) around the country.
University of Washington: In Garbage Bay
On Lake Washington, many of the Husky faithful arrive to the stadium in boat, or even seaplane, creating one of the most unique tailgating scenes in all of college football. Husky Stadium is just 150 yards from the water, and since around 1930 or so, when football fans began stashing their boats on the weeds on the banks closest to the field, tailgaters have taken advantage of the stadium's proximity to Union, which is better known as Garbage Bay.
Today the setting is more refined and considerably more extensive. According to boat moorage operations supervisor Brandie Hassing, as many as 8,000 fans come to each Washington home game via the water. One-hundred eighty private permits are issued to boaters, while nine charter boats from local restaurants make the trip from nearby Seattle or Kirkland and then dock by the stadium for more pre-game festivities. Two hundred additional boats are anchored 1,000 yards off in the bay, where water taxis pick up ticketholders and bring them to and from the game. A large variety of boats holds permits this year, ranging in length from 18 feet to 98 feet.
Once on the boat, the tailgating feel is different from that in the parking lot, says Hassing. Elaborate spreads dot the decks, with platters of cheese, wine, hors d'oeuvres, barbecue and salmon. Before the game, the Huskies arrive in their purple and gold, and fans salute them from the water. Many stay happily moored during the game, as the makeshift harbor becomes lined with high-definition flat-screen televisions.
Plan to be in Washington anytime soon? Contact the
at 206-543-2234 to arrange for a private permit for boaters wanting to dock. They also have information on charters for game day.
Louisiana State University: Geaux for the home cookin'
There are plenty of reasons to head to Baton Rouge to watch football. Number one, of course, is the football team. These are your defending national champions, a team that is 37-6 since the start of 2005.
Almost equally enticing, though, are the opportunities afforded to the tailgating fanatic. And they are aplenty.
Thousands of RVs pack themselves onto campus, and tents spring up starting on Friday. Friday night can be an all-night affair for the truly dedicated partygoer, and games like baggo, tailgate golf and washers abound, while myriad high-flying purple-and-gold flags line the landscape above 20-foot high funnels and smoke rising from thousands of grills. The award-winning LSU band makes its way throughout the campus, and live mascot Mike the Tiger growls his way menacingly around the stadium prior to kickoff.
But what really makes the LSU tailgate unique is the food. Tailgaters
, are celebrating their 10th year of partying before football, a self-earned moniker that describes their propensity for waking up super early to a loud, live DJ. Early is 5 a.m. on the day of a 7 p.m. kickoff. According to Krewe'd founder Matt Bryant, the group features food from "Emeril Live" contest winner Chad Roberston. "We're really gonna cook it up good this year," says Bryant.
On the menu:
*Alligator Sauce Piquante, featuring alligator meat browned in Creole seasoning and sautéed in onions, green onions, celery, bell peppers, jalapenos and garlic.
*Armadillo eggs, which are whole jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese, bacon and pork sausage.
*Robertson's featured dish, a boudin-stuffed boneless chicken. Boudin is a Cajun sausage.
*Fried catfish topped with etouffee, a creamy blend of onions, bell peppers, shrimp or crawfish, in a red sauce, over rice.
*And, of course, jambalaya.
All this mouth-watering talk of food make you thirsty? No problem, Krewe'd has a sponsorship deal with Old New Orleans Louisiana Rum, which supplies them with a mere 18 gallons of the good stuff.
Auburn University: The Tiger Walk
In Alabama, football is often more important than, well, a lot. And in the case of perennial power Auburn, they take it up a notch from there. According to 2007 graduate Elizabeth Harp, the RVs start filing into campus on Wednesday, and on Fridays, professors often cancel classes to go out and party with their students.
You may want to bring your Sunday clothes if you choose to party with the Tigers. As is the case at more than several Southern schools, the Greek community at Auburn and even many independents dress to the nines for the tailgate and then the game. Sorority girls wear orange-and-blue dresses, while the fraternity boys put on their khakis and button-downs for the big game. If you're lucky, you may even get to bring a date to the festivities. Harp, an Alpha Chi Omega, says dating has a ton to do with Greek life and football, and that often sisters will be asked out on a Wednesday night to attend the forthcoming tailgate sessions.
Southern hospitality is at its finest, as tailgaters tend to share in the wealth. Coolers are left open and unlocked, as thousands of fans commune over their shared love of American football, and food and drink.
Eventually, though, it's all about the Tiger Walk. The walk began innocently enough in the 1960s, when fans flocked to Donahue Avenue to watch their heroes make their way from Sewell Hall into what was then known as Cliff Hare Stadium, now Jordan-Hare Stadium. Today, fans arrive days in advance to get a prime viewing space for the parade of stars, as future legends pass two hours prior to kickoff, walking the same stretch of road where names like Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Carlos Rodgers passed before them. They come in the thousands, cheering on the Tigers in anticipation of the victory to come on the gridiron. In 1989, prior to Auburn's interstate battle with arch-nemesis Alabama, an estimated 20,000 lined the street.
University of South Carolina: Cockaboose Railroad
In Columbia, South Carolina, 22 cabooses sit on railroad tracks adjacent to Williams-Brice Stadium where the Steve Spurrier-led University of South Carolina Gamecocks battle it out in the Southeastern Conference. This is the now-famous Cockaboose Railroad. Since 1990, the privately owned cars have featured some of the amenities not easily had out of the back of a truck or van, like running water, cable or satellite television and closed-circuit USC TV (which makes the railroad a great place to watch away games), air conditioning for those early-September games, and heat for those rare cooler games as the season winds down. The cars can be swanky, depending on the owner and his taste for interior railroad design. The cabooses, which are 45 feet long and 10 feet wide, have become prime real estate. One was reportedly sold for around $350,000 in 2005.
Nate Herpich is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn, N.Y. He has also written for the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor and Sports Illustrated.com.