College football season is in full swing, and the only thing better than Saturday’s games just might be the tailgates that precede them. Sure, there are some pretty awesome rituals that also happen to border the insane — burning couches at West Virginia comes to mind — but we’re more interested in what kind of food and drink is being served up on gameday. Here are seven of our favorite tailgating traditions from the crazy world of college football, from the Midwest to the Northeast, with a bunch of stops in the South.
- Florida State University’s Gator Roast
What’s one way to show your feelings towards a rival? By killing, roasting and eating its mascot, obviously! Fans of the Tallahassee football powerhouse participate in alligator roasts before annual games against Florida. It’s no wonder that Chicago chef and FSU alum Charlie McKenna enjoyed frying up gator tail during his college days.
- The World’s Largest Cocktail Party
What do you get when two historic football programs with loyal followings play in a neutral location? The annual meeting in Jacksonville between Florida and Georgia first became known as “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party” in the 1950s, when a sportswriter witnessed a stumbling drunk hand an alcoholic beverage to an on-duty police officer. Yes, we want to go to this one.
- The Grove at The University of Mississippi
Considered by many as “the Holy Grail of tailgating,” there is perhaps no place better to spend hours before a game than at The Grove. A sea of red and blue tents line the center of the Ole Miss campus on autumn Saturdays, and revelers dress up in and cook their very best. Alum Eli Manning recalls heading into The Grove to find his parents and their shrimp dishes after playing quarterback for the university that same day.
- University of Nebraska’s Downtown Bar Scene
Why should the party be relegated to tents in a stadium parking lot? Cornhusker fans flock downtown to Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket, home to a number of establishments dishing out everything from bar food to upscale cuisine. The party usually rages on through and after the game itself.
- Louisiana State University’s Food Spread
SEC schools are no strangers to this list, but one thing separates LSU from the pack: the food. Supporters of the Tigers are known for putting extra effort into their pregame grub, and you can expect to see epic tailgating setups as you walk towards Tiger Stadium. The menu includes jambalaya, frog legs, alligator and crawfish, as well as emphasis on feasting on items based on the opposing team’s mascot.
- Harvard University’s Wine and Cheese Soirees
Who says that Ivy Leaguers don’t have any fun? While the school may be known more for high SAT test scores than putting up points on the scoreboard, its students go all out each year for “the Game” against pesky archrival Yale (the Crimson have won the last seven meetings). Of course, you can expect to trade in Solo cups for glassware and brats ‘n beer for cheese and wine. Just a small reminder that this is still the Ivy League.
- University of Michigan’s Sheer Size
There are big tailgates. Then there are the half dozen or so yearly festivities that are Michigan home football games. Just take a look at these numbers: Ann Arbor instantly becomes the state’s second-largest city on any given Saturday, having packed in 114,804 spectators for a recent game against Notre Dame. That’s larger than the entire population of the city on any non-gameday.
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