In Louisiana, tailgating is about more than football. It’s a way of life. An unarguably integral part of our southern heritage, tailgating is central to Louisiana culture. Whether it’s getting together with friends and family or welcoming strangers to join in, the people are what make this particular party so special. From the die-hard fans who never miss a game to those who just come for the food, DIG stopped by three tailgates to see what traditions these game day veterans uphold.
Mary and Coby Adams have been supporting the Tigers at home games for nearly 20 years.
With thick Cajun accents, the two detail their recipe for shrimp and sausage jambalaya as they cook the andouille in their cast iron. As LSU alumni, they remain loyal to the University by continually returning for “the biggest block party in the world.”
“My first LSU game was when we beat Florida in ‘97, and I’ve been tailgating and going to games ever since,” Coby said.
While Coby has been tailgating since 2007 near the Carl Maddox Field House, the two relocated to a new spot three years ago when they purchased a condominium unit at the North Gate of campus.
“An RV with no wheels,” the condo offers proximity and convenience next to Cypress Hall and on the edge of the Enchanted Forest.
Although the couple has season tickets, they don’t attend every game. However, tailgating is important for them to reunite with friends and still be a part of the campus they love so dearly.
“It’s about getting all of your family and friends together, having everybody around. People you normally don’t get to see all year, you can see during this time because it brings everybody together,” Mary said.
The two like to attend at least one away game a year, and were present at Lambeau Field on Sept. 3 for the University’s first game of the season against the University of Wisconsin.
Although the Badgers were incredibly receptive to visiting fans, the biggest tailgates were those belonging to LSU, Mary said.
“Even with the situation with the team right now and so much polarization with Les Miles, nobody’s going to stop coming to do this because it’s so much more than are we winning or are we losing,” Mary said. “It’s about getting everybody together that you never see and celebrating the only way we can.”
The Krewe of Old School tailgate lives up to its name- the group has been revelling on campus for game days since 1997.
Six core members form the basis of the Krewe, with friends and family coming and going to add up to around 80 to 100 people each home game. The group is a collection of several smaller tailgating groups “from way back when,” that combined years ago to form the Krewe, according to Hardin Wells, one of the Krewe’s founding members.
Located outside the Frey Computing Services Center, the tailgate is set up with two full-length tents and grilling area, a sound system, TV, and bean bag toss.
“We’re all excited about football, but it’s tailgating because we get together, spend a whole day socializing: eating, drinking, catching up on what’s been happening,” Wells said.
Game day festivities include line dancing to the tailgate’s namesake, Cupid’s “Old School Dance,” drinking games and having fun getting into the spirit of laissez les bon temps rouler, according to Wells.
Food is essential to the Krewe of Old School- they make a different menu for every game, typically consisting of classic Louisiana Cajun and Creole food. For the Mississippi State game, their menu had dishes like mango habanero chicken wings, Mexican egg rolls, garlic duck fat and white truffle oil french fries, boudin and jalapeno poppers. Cajun corn dogs, made with Cajun sausage and fish fry batter with cheese and jalapenos inside, fried bacon, fried oreos, alligator and couchon de lait are other foods commonly served.
Drinks are where it gets interesting at the Krewe.
One of the krewe members, a mechanical engineer, built a drink machine that serves the mixed drink of your choosing at the touch of a remote button. The group makes different drinks depending on the opponent for that game.
In addition to the customizable drink machine, one of the Krewe’s older couples brings purple and gold jello shots for every game.
About 60 members of the Krewe went to Lambeau Field for the season opening game against Wisconsin. A local media outlet covered their tailgate in Wisconsin, writing a full feature for the Krewe.
“There’s nothing that surpasses LSU’s tailgate. No one even comes close,” Wells said. “There’s nothing of this magnitude anywhere.”
While on the road, competitors may not be as welcoming to the opposing Tigers fans, but when at home the Krewe beckons anyone and everyone to join the party.
“We welcome the other fans, whereas away teams- there’s not many of them that are receptive to having as many fans on campus as we are,” Wells said.
Roots in Louisiana are strong and transcend state lines. Even when traveling for work, Wells said there’s nothing more communal than hearing a “Geaux Tigers” in passing.
“There is a lot of truth to the fact that people who come from south Louisiana stay away from home fewer than anywhere else in the country,” he said.
Located behind the recently completed LSU gymnastics training facility, the “D’Amico and Friends” tailgate hosts about 100 to 200 “friends” each game. Jeff and Jennifer D’Amico, along with Ben Huval, are the key organizers of the tailgate.
D’Amico and Huval have been tailgating for about 11 to 12 years together. Most of the members in their tailgate are University alumni.
The group flew 120 people in a chartered plane to Wisconsin, as they usually travel to the first away game of the season.
“One of the main reasons we come is tailgating… It keeps you coming back, almost more than the games,” Huval said.
Food at the tailgate differs from game to game, but fried chicken, boudin, Raising Cane’s, hot dogs and pastalaya are some of their staples.
Some of the group goes to the game, but those that don’t crowd around in the dozens of folding chairs that surround a flat-screen TV.
Although the group used to tailgate near the Natatorium, Huval said they like the current spot better because of its secludedness and shade.
“What’s nice about here is the atmosphere on campus. There’s never a dull moment,” he said.
Since the tailgate is near several athletic venues on campus as well as University House, many student-athletes have passed through D’Amico and Friends. According to Huval, they hosted the entire LSU women’s softball team there last weekend.
When apartment hunting for his daughter, Huval knew he had found the right place when he could see his tailgating spot from her unit.
Photos by Sean Gasser.