Where else but the SEC would there be rankings of tailgates? Very subjective, and the perfect thing to argue about, since there is no definitive answer.
I found rankings that had the University of Georgia ranked as low as eighth in the conference, and as high as fourth. (Most everyone concedes the top spot to Ole Miss).
The only real question in Athens is whether the chopped pork at the pre-game tailgates gets enough charcoal flavour on it -- oak-burning smokers not being permitted on campus.
Any Damn Fool Can Smoke a Hawg
Georgia barbecue legend Zeb Dean, in a syrupy drawl, once told my father at a tailgate in 1982 that “any damn fool can smoke a hawg, it’s the sauce what makes it good.”
Herschel Walker, on his way to the Heisman trophy, had quite a game that day, this being long before Herschel took so many blows to the head that he started blaming China for the bad weather.
Anyway, back to the tailgating, which at Georgia is organized, possibly because they’ve been doing it since the animals weren’t only on the grill, but also pulling the carriages that brought fans to the game.
With that much time to get it right, pre-game partying has evolved, making it easier to pick the appropriate place to set up.
On Campus Tailgating
The best-known spot is Myers Quad, the grassy area in the background when ESPN’s College GameDay is on campus. It’s a mixture of age groups here, students with parents, student organizations and alumni -- so fairly civilized.
On the North Campus, tailgating takes place on the grounds of Herty Field, where Georgia football started in the 19th century.
Set up is not allowed until five hours before kickoff, and tents are permitted, but kegs, generators, televisions, grills and loud music are not. A good choice for the mature fan.
Alumni and older fans also like the Carlton Street Deck on South Campus, while student tailgates and a cornucopia of cornhole are on Milledge Avenue, home to Greek life houses.
Off Campus Tailgating
Downtown at the Classic Center offers both game day and all-season parking passes, plus space for RVs, a 10-minute walk from the stadium.
Tailgate Station sells parking spots within a gated area, that come with 10 guest passes per game. It’s a 10-15 minute walk, and there is also a shuttle.
If you really don’t want to deal with downtown traffic, consider Bulldog Park, a 10-minute drive from Sanford, with shuttle delivering fans back and forth to the stadium starting two hours before kickoff.
The local transit system has four routes that go to the university, and several hotels also offer shuttles.
Eat & Drink At A Georgia Game
One guide to tailgating warns “you may get roped into playing drinking games like flip cup or beer pong.”
That reminds me of a story from the last time we saw a game at Wisconsin: We arrived in Madison in the morning, and after some searching, found a place to park in a guy’s backyard for 10 bucks.
As we backed in – this is at about 9:00 a.m. - we couldn’t help but notice the young woman leaning on the trunk of the car next to us, vomiting rather spectacularly. “Wow, when did you start?”, we asked her.
“Thursday,” she said. “You guys got any vodka?”
Back To Georgia
In Athens, the Georgia Crown Distributing Co., recognizing that pounding a dozen SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale means as much time at the urinal as in the stands, has three cocktail suggestions for pre game: Boozy Sweet Tea, Bloody Mary and Beer-rita (recipes are here).
But remember, in Athens, “Alcohol is allowed at individual tailgates, but bartenders are not allowed, it must be self-pour.”
Wouldn’t you have loved to have been at the meeting where they came up with that rule.
Food runs the gamut, from jambalaya to pigs in a blanket. One well-known tailgate called the Libation Station did 120 pounds of London Broil for a game last season.
Georgia Tailgating Traditions
Ring the Bell
Something that dates back to 1894 definitely qualifies as traditional. The Chapel Bell is on the North Campus of UGA, and one of the university’s oldest traditions has both students and alumni lining up to ring it victories, often going on into early the next morning.
The first time the bell was reported to be rung in celebration was after the 1894 game in which Georgia defeated Auburn 10-8 in Atlanta -- a real barn burner.
Dressing up a bit is encouraged. Young women often wear sundresses in UGA colors, and sunhats, and you’ll see lots of cowboy (cowgirl?) boots. For guys, khakis, a button-down and a red bowtie is a pretty standard look.
Between the Hedges
Every week during college football season, you’ll hear the phrase between the hedges on TV at least once.
It refers to a 5,000-square-foot rectangle that can be seen via satellite, originally planted in 1929, and dubbed “the most famous flora in football,” thick, lush hedges that have actually been removed from Sanford Stadium twice in their 94-year history.
In 2017, the construction of a new locker room and scoreboard in the west end zone forced the plants to be dug up.
“We took out [the hedges] and tagged them with the corresponding sideline and then numbered them down the line, so they’d go right back where they came from,” Matt Hollan, UGA’s director of athletic turf and grounds, told Garden and Gun magazine. “The plants were… replanted 10 days before the G-Day scrimmage in April.”
Before that, in preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, UGA was chosen as the soccer venue for the Games. Since a soccer field is 25 percent larger than a football field, the hedges and a concrete path had to go. Also around then, it was discovered that the hedges were slowly being killed by parasites.
So, healthy clippings were propagated at nurseries in Georgia and Florida, and replanted immediately following the Olympics.
Fans of Georgia Tech have been known to take a handful of the hedge if Tech winds at Sanford, but the plants are resilient and grow very quickly.