Submitted by Andrea Weigl — STAFF WRITER
In the South, we do college tailgating differently.
Theres the fashion: sundresses and pearls, skirts and cowboy boots, khakis and bow ties.
Theres the food: shrimp boils, oyster roasts, pig pickins.
Theres a number of reasons for this: the longtime lack of professional sports teams, making college football king, and the regions warm temperatures well into November, which makes eating outside even in a parking lot enjoyable.
Raleigh food writer Debbie Moose researched tailgating culture across the country for her cookbook, Fan Fare. She discovered that Yale, Rutgers and Princeton all claim to be the birthplace of tailgating, that University of Hawaii fans grill fish on hibachis, and that the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville is called the worlds largest outdoor cocktail party.
And Moose came to the conclusion that Southerners are the most serious tailgaters. I think weve taken it to a whole different level. Part of it is our deep attachment to college football. Part of it is the weather, she says.
That seriousness could be seen among the 40 or so members of Dons Tailgate Club at the recent N.C. State-Louisiana Tech game. Not even the breakdown of Don Annas Wolfpack red van on the way to Carter-Finley Stadium could stop the fun. Annas and his crew just moved all the tailgating supplies into three other vehicles and still arrived more than two hours before the 12:30 kick-off.
All the must-have dishes were on hand: Ashley Currins blueberry cobbler, Faye Currins bean dip and Charlie Millers banana pudding. Plus, there were egg and hash brown casseroles, French toast, bacon, sausage and much more.
The group dates back to the mid-1980s, and now the children of some of the groups original members have grown up and are regular attendees.
Weve got a second generation going on, said Will Autry, 51, of Apex. Its a wonderful group of people. Its an extended family is what it is.
In Charlotte, UNC-Charlotte alumni are starting a new tailgating tradition with the first season of the 49ers football team. Likely, the most stoked fan is Rob Dibble, 40, who converted a 1992 Chevy ambulance into The Normbulance, named after the team mascot. Dibble, a training manager at a Charlotte financial firm, painted the ambulance the school colors of green and gold.
For the first game against Campbell University, Dibble concocted a special cocktail for a pregame toast. He added green food coloring to Goldschlager and planned to call it Ninerschlager.
Even Dibble has noticed that tailgating isnt the same outside the South. He once went to an Oregon football game and said, I asked where the cornhole was and everybody just looked at me.