A fall Saturday without Carolina football just doesn’t seem right. Any college football fan would agree that a mid-week game or bye weekend for your team leaves you longing for the tight spiral of the pigskin leather, the emotional roller coaster roar of the fans, the come-from-behind fourth quarter play to tie the game and…..the tailgate. Ahh…I said it. You and I both know it’s all about the tailgate. We start our pre-game football fellowship early and win or lose we keep on tailgating post-game. Yes, we love football….but we love noshing and sipping just as much! You might be asking, “Why write about tailgating so close to football season’s end?”  Because when tailgating is a year round way of life, there’s never a better time to talk about perfecting the art form.  Plus, Carolina fans still have the Duke game and a post-season Bowl game to think about.  And who says you can’t tailgate during basketball season?!  You just may have to move it inside or under a covered parking deck to protect your spread from the elements.

Tar Heel Tailgate Time - UNC Homecoming 2010 with Gary & Pat Lopp and Kristin Tucker
Tar Heel Tailgate Time – UNC Homecoming 2010 with parents Gary & Pat Lopp
Check out the football platters and bowls.  Half the fun for me is the presentation!

Anyone who knows me well knows KT travels with some of her tailgate essentials at all times.  I just have to add the food & beverage, and I can instantly throw together an impromptu tailgate from the back of my SUV.  Just ask fellow Local Buzz Columnists Jan Bolick, Art Chansky or Ron Stutts.  All have witnessed and shared my traveling tailgate in multiple seasons (before Bruce Springsteen at Kenan Stadium in the spring and during the summer Sweet Carolina Beach Music Series at University Mall).  One of my all-time greatest tailgate challenges was for a group of 30+ before the U2 concert at RBC two Octobers ago.  Big concert, birthday and Carolina home game all in one day!  (See U2 concert tailgate photo below with Beth Dixon, The Fashion Plate and Tanya Leary.)

I asked around town about some long-standing tailgating traditions.  Carolina fan Kim Duval started hers in 1988 when she worked in UNC’s athletic department.  It’s always the Duke – Carolina football game whether home or away.  “The biggest block of tickets was 76 and this year might match or surpass that number,” says Kim.  Her posse is comprised of family and long-time friends.  The kids were small when the tradition started and through the years they brought their friends. Now a new generation of Tar Heel tailgaters is on the horizon.  Everyone contributes food….pimento cheese, fried chicken, deviled eggs and cold beer are all staples.  On a chilly day a pot of chili comes out.  And the radio is always tuned to WCHL 1360 for pre and post game coverage.  Kim stated it perfectly, “If the sky is Carolina blue and the beer is cold, then the win is a bonus.”  She seals the point I made earlier.  We LOVE our football, but we social creatures LOVE to sandwich it between some BBQ and sweet tea.     
Back to the art.  Sorry Carolina fans, but we still have a few things to learn in the art of tailgating.  South Carolina gave us a clinic a few years back.  A group of Gamecocks had a coveted spot in the almost-all-Carolina Craige deck.  They brought with them an entire living room…a couch, a big screen TV & satellite dish, a rug, and a grill all housed under a huge tent.  We amateurs were in disbelief.  Carolina fans have stepped it up a level in the years since that game.  We start earlier and stay later, and the grills and satellites have emerged.  We may have a thing or two to learn from the likes of LSU, Ole Miss and other schools around the country where football is a religion and tailgating traditions run deep, but we’re getting there!
Look for a tailgating game plan in a future column with tips for the perfect pre-party.
Those are my tailgating tales for this column. Share your traditions and stories below.