Are your familiar with the concept of “The Bucket List”? The movie with the same name that follows Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as they try to complete a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket”? This inspired me to come up with a “Bucket List” of tailgate parties that every tailgater should experience before they die. In no particular order…
The Infield at Talladega Super Speedway – Most tailgate parties last three to four hours prior to the start of the event. The tailgate party at Talladega lasts for three to four days before the green flag drops. Just the sheer acreage that is the Talladega Infield makes it a living, breathing Mardi Gras for race fans or just anyone that enjoys a good party. Take it from the folks at Laidbackracing.com, “There is no party anywhere as big as the Talladega Infield! Actually, there is no party anywhere as big as Talladega, period!”
Lambeau Field in December – We all watched in the comfort of our fully heated homes, the Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants playoff game in frigid temperatures this past January. Just because the mercury was nearly frozen solid didn’t prevent the Packer faithful from coming out and doing what they do best; giving a few beer-soaked brats a Viking funeral. Tailgating at Lambeau is legendary for the food and beverage intake alone. Add in the history of the team and the rabid loyalty of the fan base and you have yourself a great tailgating experience. And yes, you have to do it in December when it is freezing cold outside. Tailgating prior to a pre-season game in August does not count, you wuss.
“The Zoo” inside Brainerd International Raceway – Drag racing usually involves a lot of smoke, burning tires, and sensory overload to anyone that has ever been to an NHRA event. The same words could describe the tailgating experience inside the infield of Brainerd International Raceway, a.k.a. “The Zoo”. A lot of the tailgaters in The Zoo never make it into their seats to watch the race because the race is secondary to the tailgating. The friendly hospitality in The Zoo is incredible and you will be offered more beers from strangers than at a fraternity party during rush week.
World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party: Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville – With a name like “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”, how can this not be on any self-respecting tailgater’s bucket list? The amount of booze poured at this tailgate party would make Mickey Mantle blush. Since the game is held on a neutral site, fans from both schools mingle and socialize up until game time. A popular tailgating game is trying to figure out which school’s co-eds are hotter. We’re all winners when playing this game.
Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, Omaha, Nebraska during The College World Series – If you build it, they will tailgate. You’ll come for the pure love of college baseball but you’ll come back again for the tailgate. An added bonus is if the LSU and Texas teams both make it to Omaha. The tailgating outside “the Blatt” when those teams’ fans are in town makes the tailgating fare something to behold. Men, make sure to invest in the industrial size bottle of Gold Bond. Omaha. June. Grilling outside. Using any other brand of baby powder and you’ll be making pancakes in your socks.
Jimmy Buffett in concert: Key West, Florida – In all honesty, any Jimmy Buffett tailgate party could qualify to make this list. The reason why Key West is highlighted here is that those concerts just seem to ooze with the overwhelming “permanent vacation” mindset of the avid Parrothead. Key West is also Jimmy’s home when he isn’t touring so consider this party like a “home game” for serious tailgaters. Roam the blacktop prior to any Jimmy Buffett concert and you’ll see men in grass skirts complete with coconut shell bras, a margarita glass so big you’ll need a boat oar to stir its contents, and of course, more cheeseburgers in paradise than Rosie O’Donnell could eat.
The Rose Bowl on January 1st – The BCS has really killed a lot of the spirit of the college football bowls but the Rose Bowl has somehow managed to maintain its rich traditions. Those traditions are apparent in the tailgating parking area prior to the “Granddaddy of Them All.” Because the Rose Bowl was built in 1921 there was not a lot of thought put into accommodating tailgaters. No problem. Tailgaters just park on the adjacent golf course and put out their chairs and fire up their grills. And because of the tradition of the game and the venue in which it is played, it does not matter which teams are competing.
The Infield at the Preakness Stakes – Although the infield at the Preakness Stakes does not allow you to pull in your car and tailgate in the traditional manner, it is full of grills, coolers of beer, and a lot of rowdy behavior. The Preakness Infield has evolved into something that resembles Spring Break at Lake Havasu during a Girls Gone Wild video shoot. You’ll see college kids foot racing on top of the rows of port-o-johns all while dodging beer cans being flung at their heads. Keg stands and 12-foot-long beer bongs are commonplace here. Oh yeah, most partygoers know there is a pretty big horse race going on that day but by post time, most everyone in the infield does not care by that point.
The Grove at Ole Miss – Still exuding the southern charm of an antebellum Hollywood movie, The Grove at Ole Miss is tailgating that time forgot. The Grove is smack dab in the middle of campus surrounded by 10 acres of oak trees and foliage. If that scenery wasn’t enough to take your breath away, the women will. You’ll consider making 14 different marriage proposal speeches just by walking from one end of The Grove to the other. Make sure to dress a little more spiffy than you normally dress. Those white tablecloths and candelabras don’t mesh well with your 1983 “Diary of a Madman” Ozzy Osborne concert T-shirt. The Grove opens at 4 a.m. and you better have your spot claimed early because by 6 a.m. they will all be gone. All this for a non-conference night game scheduled for a 6 pm kickoff.
Did we miss something? What classic tailgate party was left off this Bucket List? Leave a comment and state your case.
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