It’s definitely a first-world problem, but the thing about going to Austin to watch football at the University of Texas is that there’s so much to do that tailgating might not be the most fun part of your trip.
With all due respect to the fine folks who follow Mississippi State, what the hell else are you going to do in Starkville?
But Austin has unbelievable food and music scenes, plus the Congress Bridge bats (look it up).
The school colors go back to 1885, when two students on their way to a baseball game stopped at a general store to buy ribbons to hand out to spectators, and orange and white were the most plentiful colors in stock. But it was only after experimenting with gold and white and even orange and maroon, that Texas officially adopted orange and white as official colors in 1900.
The shade of orange went back and forth between bright and burnt until Coach Darrell Royal, for whom the UT stadium is named, chose burnt orange as the preferred shade for good in the early 1960s, reportedly because it more closely matched the color of a football.
UT athletes were already being called Longhorns in 1916, when a longhorn steer was brought to campus on a train from South Texas and introduced to the crowd at halftime of a football game. The editor of the alumni magazine dubbed the steer Bevo, but it’s unclear why.
Hook ’em Horns
Experimenting with shadow puppets, head cheerleader Harley Clark and his roommate created the Hook ’em Horns hand symbol in 1955, and unveiled it at a pep rally before the TCU game.
Rival fans will sometimes do a “Horns down” gesture, but be warned, people in Austin do not find that funny. At all.
As mentioned, the stadium is named after Hall of Fame coach Darrell K. Royal and in 2020, the field was renamed in honor of Heisman Trophy winning running backs Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams, one of whom went on to endorse Skoal, the other one a noted weed enthusiast.
The Longhorn band, known as the Showband of the Southwest, performs before the game, and it’s pretty spectacular. There are about 375 members, so that’s a lot of burnt orange marching by on the way into the stadium.
Five members of the Longhorn Band are in charge of the world’s largest bass drum, Big Bertha, which weighs 500 pounds and is eight feet in diameter.
The band has recorded three albums, and playing one of them at your tailgate will help make you popular with your neighbours. Also, you’re gonna want to know the words to The Eyes of Texas.
Wide Open Spaces
The UT campus is nicknamed the Forty Acres because that was the size of the original tract of land provided by the state. Today, the main campus takes up more than 430 acres.
That means there’s lots of room to tailgate.
If you want to do your own thing, Austin has places where you can rent an RV, letting you reserve a spot to camp overnight in the RV area, separate from the general tailgating areas, and get an early start on your tailgate.
The Capital Complex State of Texas Property Tailgate Map outlines the various reserved tailgate parking areas, the short-term tailgate lots, and RV parking areas for use overnight.
Grills and smokers are permitted, but away from buildings, vehicles and anything flammable.
Which brings us to the meat of the matter. Yes, you will see people grilling hot dogs and ribs and chicken, but this is Texas. Eat beef.
Admittedly, setting up a smoker and taking the time to do a brisket may be more than you want to bite off. But at least buy a small charcoal grill and do steaks, or even burgers.
And the folks you’ll meet will share, not only beer, but often their meat masterpieces.
If you can’t have a good time eating brisket, drinking Lone Star beer and watching girls in short skirts and cowboy boots, well, I don’t know what to tell you.
If you just want to attend a pre-game party put on by someone else, there are various options.
Apart from promotional parties, put on by radio stations and the like, there are Wristband Required Tailgates, large, open-to-the-public tailgates, offering both single-day and season-long memberships with all-you-can-eat/drink privileges.
These include Longhorn Tailgaters and Horn-Ball Texas Tailgaters.
Then, there are Official University of Texas Tailgate Organizations on Bevo Blvd., where you can see a street parade and the arrival of Bevo, greet the team, do a zip line and play games.
At Longhorn City Limits, there’s free live music, the Still Austin Whiskey Music Lounge for 21+ with cocktails and swag, and pregame happy hour beer pricing.
The Alumni Center Tailgate and the Legends Club require membership, but offer perks like a complimentary buffet and soft drinks, access three hours before kickoff, during the game, and one hour post-game (the bathrooms alone might be worth the price of membership) and six flat screen televisions.
One last thing. Consider taking a battery-operated mini fan. The stuffed jalapenos aren’t the only things that are hot.