The 4 F’s of Tailgating: Food, football, friends and fun
Mention the word tailgating, and the first two images that come to mind usually revolve around football and food.
But, according to a couple of heavy hitters in the BYU tailgating community, those two things are only half the equation when it comes to describing the communal nature of the tailgate experience. The remaining ingredients in the recipe are friends and fun.
“The people are the best part of tailgating and the reason I keep doing it, even when it is hard to get excited to show up like in 2017,” said Adrian Jenkins, who is marking his seventh season as a BYU tailgater. “I often say I met the best people in my life in a parking lot waiting for a game to start. People I have met at tailgates I now camp and vacation with. I have them to my house for dinner and they have me and my kids to theirs. Some of them are closer to me than family.”
David Fiso, who is known in the tailgate community as a resident cooking expert, said there are two main things that keep him coming back.
“First, it’s the people,” Fiso said. “I love the people I tailgate with. We are great friends and are all there to enjoy good food and cheer for BYU. It’s family friendly and my kids have made friends with the other kids in the lot. It’s a community that I love being a part of. Second, I love to cook and love to share my food with people. On the weeks that I am in charge, I always encourage people to stop by and grab some food. I always make extras. There is something special about creating food that draws people in.”
When asked to put a percentage on how much the tailgating experience is about the communal environment and how much is about the food, Jenkins, who is somewhat affectionately known as the Mayor of BYU Tailgating, split the uprights at 50/50.
“I am anti-social by nature, but those six home games a year, I am greeting people, meeting new strangers and kissing babies. Not really actually kissing babies, but pretty close,” Jenkins said. “The food drives people in at times,” he said. “I am boring to talk to, but a heck of a good cook and willing to share leftovers.”
Most college football fans tend to prefer afternoon games, but due to tailgating festivities, Jenkins and Fiso both love to see night home games on BYU’s schedule.
“I prefer night games as it maximizes the time we have to tailgate,” Fiso said. “For early games, it feels like everything gets cut short.”
For night games, both Fiso and Jenkins said they like to arrive at 7 a.m. when the lot opens to reserve their spots and begin set up. A typical day would then include cooking some form of breakfast, hooking up TVs to watch other college games, then barbecuing lunch and/or dinner, as well as snacking and visiting throughout the day.
Smoked meats are, of course, a favorite among the tailgate crowd with brisket, ribs and pulled pork being game day staples. People all bring their own favorite sides.
The food may flow freely, but the alcohol doesn’t. While drinking may be a big part of most other collegiate tailgate gatherings, naturally that isn’t the case with the BYU crowd.
“Tailgating is about the people,” said Fiso, who noted that he doesn’t usually get in his seat at the stadium until 5-10 minutes before kickoff because he would rather chill with his crew at the tailgate festivities. “If you have great people around you, you will have a good time. Add great food alongside those people and you have everything you need to have a great time. Also without alcohol, you’ll actually remember the fun you had! I have never felt like my tailgating experience was diminished due to a lack of alcohol.”
And just because the game is over, that doesn’t necessarily signal the end of the tailgate.
“Post game, we typically grill brats while we wait for traffic to die down,” Fiso said. “It’s not uncommon for us to be in the lot past 1 a.m. after late games.”
So, is the overall quality of the tailgate intrinsically tied to the success of the Cougars on the field?
“Absolutely the food tastes better when winning — we cook better too, when winning,” Jenkins said. “When we lose, the post-tailgate atmosphere is horrible. ... A great post-game meal does nothing to make up for a lousy season. The bad season (in 2017) caused personal rifts between some tailgaters that would not have happened in even an average season. Our meals got easier — and worse — as the season went on last year.”
That being the case, BYU’s opening upset on the road against Arizona bodes well for the quality of tailgates this season.
The current BYU tailgating effort began in 2011 and has jumped around to five different locations. It is currently held in a parking lot on Bulldog Boulevard, situated between Baskin Robbins and Penguin Brothers in Provo. It is across the street from Wendy’s and the parking lot for Fat Cats.
Fiso offered some tips for those interested in sticking their toe into the pool of tailgate culture.
“Don’t be shy!” he said. “Bring a canopy, some chairs and a grill. Set up and have a good time. If you want to make friends, bring some foods to share, and be social. Also, get on Twitter. I’ve met countless people on Twitter first, then in the tailgate in real life. Also, I was invited to tailgate at BYU because of Twitter. The Twitter culture is strong in BYU tailgating.”