Down here in the SEC, tailgating is serious, and at Auburn, tailgating is just as much a part of the weekend experience as the game. Across campus, you’ll see people tailgating instead of going to the game – the tailgating experience is just that valuable. It’s a great atmosphere to be a part of, and it’s something we look forward to every week – good food, good friends & family, and beautiful surroundings. The problem is that the same characteristics that bring tens of thousands of tailgaters to campus every week create a scarcity of spaces to tailgate.
Once you find that perfect tailgating spot, you want to keep it. You want your guests to know where to find you every week. We have lots of drop-in visitors at our tailgate largely because anyone who has previously tailgated with us knows where we are, and that they have an open invitation to come and hang out. The challenge is keeping that tailgate spot from week to week – especially when it is a premium location.
I don’t know how other schools handle it, but Auburn University permits tailgaters to begin tailgating at 4pm the day before the game. While most tailgates are not firing up the grill at 4pm the day before, the serious tailgaters are roping off their spots to ensure they have their prized location the next day. We’re lucky at Auburn to have a generally respectful alumni and student population, and we rarely have issues where someone has removed a tailgating rope-off. So the strategy is simply to be on campus at your spot at 4pm the day before the game with ribbon, stakes, and a hammer in hand. Then you’re in good shape!
So how do you handle this if you live 2 hours away from campus and can’t take every Friday off of work to rope off a tailgate spot? Tailgate neighbors and AU students are two good options. We have used a combination of other tailgaters and students to ensure that our tailgate spot is roped off every week at 4pm. One of the benefits of getting to know your tailgate neighbors is that you can work together to ensure you stay tailgate neighbors. One of our tailgate neighbors, Steve, lives in Auburn and ropes off his own tailgate every week. He is always on the lookout for us, and calls us if anything looks strange, or our tailgate spot looks like it’s getting taken over. He has even roped off part of our traditional spot until we could get it taken care of – this is just one of several reasons to get to know your tailgating neighbors.
The last two years, we have had a family friend who is a student down on the Plains, and he has proven to be extremely dependable in marking off our tailgate spot for us as soon as it’s legal every week. On a typical Friday afternoon before a game, I get a text message from Cove (our student friend) at 4pm confirming that our tailgating spot has been reserved with our stakes and ribbon. Then, sometime on Saturday, Cove comes by the tailgate, has a free meal and free place to hang out, and gets some spending money from us. If Cove wasn’t doing this for us, we’d be spending that same money on gas to drive to campus and back (2 hours each way). It’s definitely a deal for us, and it gets him a little cash to spend on a gameday.
This strategy costs a little, but we have determined that it is well worth it. Having our spot is pretty important to us – we know where to park, where to setup the satellite dish, and our friends know where we are. What do you think? Is your tailgating spot at the top or bottom of your priority list? If it is at the top, how do you handle it?