Football season is fast approaching, and with football season comes a fan favorite tradition — tailgating.
This fall, millions of football fans will descend upon their team’s stadium hours before kickoff to take in the pregame festivities while enjoying their favorite foods, drinks and lawn games. That is no different at Maryland, where Saturdays see thousands don their jerseys and head to Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium to cheer on the Terrapins to victory.
Perhaps no group takes more pride in their tailgate than Glenn Noble, Scott Weitz and Joel Pitt, who have been setting up their pregame function ahead of Terps games for over half a decade.
“We get there as soon as they allow us to get in, which is typically five hours before kickoff,” Noble said. “We average around 200 guests per week.”
Running a tailgate of that size is no easy task. The trio have to prepare in advance, gathering and setting up equipment such as tents, tables, generators and televisions. When it comes to items like food and drinks, they crowdsource, allowing attendees to volunteer to bring enough for the crowd that gathers in Lot 1 every Saturday.
“It’s literally unbelievable. It really is. And we get so much joy out of it. People love it, absolutely love it,” Noble gleamed.
Perhaps what draws fans to pregame tailgates around the nation is the family atmosphere most tailgates bring every weekend. For many, it’s an opportunity to reconnect with old buddies and rally behind their favorite school or team. For others, it’s a chance to carry on a family tradition and bridge generations.
“The last five years, [our tailgate] has gotten really big and I think part of that is a lot of us have had sons and daughters who now are matriculating there and that totally changes the aperture,” said Noble.
Regardless of one’s motivation, tailgating comes in all shapes and sizes. Some simply pull their car up and enjoy a pregame meal or drink before heading into the stadium to watch the game, while others don’t stay put at all and wander around to explore the area. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you can find those that dedicate their entire day to the experience, arriving early enough and leaving late enough to take in everything that a football game day has to offer.
“My favorite part of tailgating is the pageantry of the day, being there pretty much from 7:30 in the morning until 10 o’clock at night,” Noble said. “We like being in the middle of everything. We like when the band comes by, when the athletic director comes by. We like when opposing fans come by. We like when players’ families come by… Every moment of the day is enjoyable. People look at us and go ‘You’re crazy.’”
Crazy or not, they are not alone in their passion. This fall, campuses, fields and parking lots throughout the country will be littered with tents and flags proudly displaying fans’ allegiances. With Maryland’s season set to kick off against Buffalo on Sept. 3, Noble and crew are gearing up for another season of excitement in College Park.
“I’m looking forward to the team building on its momentum from last year,” he said. “I’m looking to see old friends, make new friends and have people understand coming to Maryland on a Saturday to watch football and partake in tailgating is a good use of [their] time.”
Whether it’s in the North, South, East or West — or even abroad — tailgating takes on a unique flavor of the region it represents, showing that at its heart, sports are about not only what the scoreboard shows at the game’s conclusion, but rather an opportunity to bring a community together and allow people to put aside their differences and embrace one another. Tailgating represents these values at its heart, as it provides a setting for bonding and fun in the background of the intense competition taking place on the field.