Welcome to the 9th stop on the Tailgating Tour, LSU. I was in Baton Rouge on November 6th, 2010, when Alabama came to town. LSU and Alabama are huge rivals and I was expecting LSU tailgating to be at its best for this match up. The game was originally scheduled for 7pm, but CBS wanted to televise it as their mid day game. This resulted in a kickoff change to 2:30. LSU usually plays all their home games at night, but when the payers of those enormous TV contracts want to change the game, well money talks. Regardless of this change in schedule, I was incredibly impressed with what I found in Baton Rouge. In my travels this fall, LSU has built quite the reputation for their tailgating. Would they live up to this reputation? I arrived in Baton Rouge on Friday before the game. Upon arrival, I stopped by campus and could already see the signs of tailgaters. People’s tents were set up and their trailers were parked. The serious tailgaters had claimed their spots and were ready for Saturday’s festivities.
With the game being moved from 7 to 2:30 I decided I should get there before 7. Notice how cold it was! Yes, it was 37 degrees outside when I got to the tailgate area. This was my first time ever visiting Louisiana, and let me tell you, I was not expecting frost on the windshield. When arriving before the sun was up, I was not expecting to see people already cooking and tailgating. Obviously this was my first time tailgating at LSU. Fans take their tailgating food very seriously. Those boxes you see with the fire on top, yes they did keep you warm on that frosty November morning, but it is what is inside you will want to pay attention to. I will talk more about the boxes in greater detail later, but the big one had a pig in it and the small one had a turducken. This group of tailgaters were set up right across from where I parked. Their group name was the “Predawn Tailgatin’ Tigers Louisiana”. Their name was fitting. They had arrived at 4:15 am! I thought rolling in at 6:45am was early, but this tailgating group was fixing up their second breakfast when I arrived. As the sun rose it brought out the tailgaters. The once bare metal tent frames were now covered in purple and cold. With the tent covers on and the fires lit, fans were ready for their tailgating to begin. LSU and Alabama fans might not agree on much when it comes to what happens on the field, but one they thing that they did agree on was that is was freezing that morning. It eventually warmed up to the mid 60s, but at 7am a fire on the side walk was a great idea. As I walked around on game day, I noticed many things about LSU tailgating. The first was the abundance of tailgating groups. I have seen tailgating groups in many of the places I have visited this year, but at LSU it seemed that everyone was on a group. It was rare to find a tailgating tent with out a group trailer or tent. The trailers went from simple white with text all the way to full color graphics. Some groups had custom cups, while others had custom koozies. Some group’s names were in reference to family names of things to do with LSU football, but my favorite names were those that had to do with where they tailgated on campus. Isle of the Tiger tailgated on a traffic island in the middle of the road. Hence the name Isle of the Tiger. I talked with the person who runs this tailgate about how he got such a unique space. He has been tailgating in that location for many years. As a student it started out with a small tent and a boom box. As most tailgates do, his grew in size every year. It has been several years since he was a student, but still tailgates in that same spot. I asked him if the spot was assigned? The spots on campus are all first come first serve. You mark you territory the night before. After 5pm you can bring your tents and trailers onto campus. The first home game of the year is where you stake you claim for the rest of the season. Because of this, the head of Isle of the Tiger always takes off work the Friday before the first home game, to make sure he gets his spot. Using vacation time for tailgating, now that is dedication. Tiger Tailgatin’ at the Cleavage always sets up between the two Indian burial grounds on campus. I don’t think I need to explain to you why its called “Tiger Tailgatin’ at the Cleavage” when the sub text is “Saturday night between the mounds”. LSU was the first place where the majority of the tailgating was done on campus. Let me clarify, by on campus I mean that fans set up their tailgates directly on school buildings. More on this tailgate later, but I spent a large part of the day on the lawn in front of the Electrical Engineering building. All around campus, tents are were up in front of academic and administrative buildings. It was a pretty easy way to tell people where you are set up at. I guess I blended in because I was asked where several buildings were. Unfortunately this was my first trip to LSU’s campus and I was just as clueless as the person asking. With a large portion of the tailgating occurring at university buildings, the administration distributes these large yellow trash cans for tailgates to use. Yellow and Purple tents with larges groups huddled around them covered the LSU campus. Sites like above were found everywhere you walked. There was another tailgating option if you wanted something a little bit bigger than just a tent. You could go the RV Route. I have seen RVs at almost every tailgate that I have been to, but in Baton Rouge there was one of the more impressive RV scenes I have come across. There were dozens of RVs lining the road next to the stadium, but that was only the beginning. If you were to continue to walk away from the stadium towards campus you would come across an enormous RV city with hundreds of RVs parked. The RV city was a party all in itself. Every RV that you passed had something great cooking along with a TV to watch the other games on. Throughout the day, I walked all over campus and the RV Parks. Throughout the day I discovered many things you should know about LSU tailagting. Lets start with what to wear. The main fashion rule in Baton rouge was you must wear purple, gold, or both. Some fans dressed up with collared shirts and these lovely pants… Jerseys and camo were a very common site… There were of course some who went with the costume look… Like most college games, the T-shirt is very popular. The cajun way to spell Go is Geaux, so in Baton Rouge every Go is spelled the cajun way. A little back story about LSU and Alabama. Alabama and LSU are both in the SEC West and have some history between each other. For those of you who are unaware, Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban used to coach at LSU. Not only did he coach there, but he won a national title in 2003. In 2005 Saban left the Tigers to coach in the NFL. After two seasons in the NFL, Saban returned to the college game, but this time for the hated rival Alabama. I don’t know Mr. Saban, so I can’t tell you his reasons for leaving to go to the NFL, but LSU fans feel it was for the higher paycheck. I think these T-shirts that I saw expres some of the fan’s attitudes towards him. There were a lot more of these shirts, but these were some of my favorites, and really some were to bad to post online. Another thing to know about game day in Baton Rouge is that their mascot is Mike the Tiger. Mike the Tiger is a real tiger. Let me repeat that, LSU has a real live tiger as their mascot. Mike VI lives in a multi million dollar complex across the street from Tiger Stadium and is cared for by LSU’s Vet school. On any day but game day, you can see Mike in his habitat. On game day he has special duties to preform. Similar to the Vol Walk at Tennessee and the Walk of Champions at Ole Miss, the LSU players and coaches walk to the stadium. A few minutes after the players and coaches passed by, the cheerleaders were out! After the cheerleaders, Mike makes an appearance on his way to do a lap of the stadium. Look closely and you can see him laying down. After the band made its way through, fans started to enter the stadium. And now for what you have all been waiting for…. THE FOOD! I had high expectations for the food at LSU. In researching and talking with other tailgaters, LSU had built quite the reputation for itself. Fortunately for me, it did not disappoint. Lets start with breakfast. I have seen eggs cooked at a tailgate before, but never like this! An omelette made in a plastic bag! Just take 2 eggs and ingredients of your choosing and smush them up in a plastic bag. Remove the air and close the bag. After a few minutes in boiling water you have created This perfectly cooked breakfast omelette! Cleanup is to just throw away the bag. This is by far one of the coolest thing I have seen for breakfast. Thanks to Scott and his awesome tailgate for showing me this really cool way to make an omelette. Breakfast was not the only great food I found. Remember those wooden boxes with the fire on top of them? Well they are not just o keep you warm. They are called “cajun microwaves” and are used to make a cochon de lait. A what? Yes that was my reaction when told what was cooking. A cochon de lait is simply a suckling pig. Anything that involves cooking pork immediately has my attention. You can uses the cajun microwave for many other types of meat, but for the Alabama game, a cochon de lait was most popular. Remember how LSU was playing Alabama? Well Alabama’s mascot is Al the Elephant. These LSU fans made their cochon de lait look like an elephant! Incredibly creative. Even Alabama fans would stop and admit how creative this was. Whether shaped like an elephant or not, the cochon de lait was absolutely amazing. For a majority of the morning I had the pleasure of tailgating with Jay Ducote. Jay is an LSU alum and a master behind the grill. His tailgate was the one at the Electrical Engineering building. In his college years, he and some of his friends built one of the coolest grills I have ever seen. With a little welding they transformed an ordinary keg into an awesome tailgating machine! Not only does this have a keg converted grill, but there is smaller keg turned smoker! Perfect for ribs, chicken, brisket, whatever you want! When Jay and his friends take the grill to away games they have even smoked a turkey while driving. At stoplights they would get out and quickly add a little more charcoal. Incorporating your grilling and traveling to the game is tailgating efficiency at its finest.
Jay’s keg grill was not just cool looking, but it also cooked up some amazing food. Like some very hot chicken wings.
What about delicious ribs?
I first saw the bacon explosion in Tennessee, but it would not be the last. It made a return appearance at LSU. As I continued to explore the tailgating seen at LSU I saw many foods I had not yet encountered.
Fresh crabs from Lake Pontchartrain anyone? This tailgating group had quite the spread. Similar to the salmon picking I saw in Washington, these tailgaters just gathered around the table and picked those delicious crustaceans apart.
Gumbo anyone? With this being cajun country, gumbo was a very common tailgating food.There was one tailgate that had quite the menu.
Jambalaya with white beans…
and frog legs! The chef making these caught the frogs and the alligator himself. I didn’t ask how he got the gator, there are just some things I don’t want to know.
There was also fried shrimp and seafood pies. This was pretty much a plate of cajun cuisine at its finest. LSU’s food lived up to its reputation. I am sure there are a lot of other amazing dishes that I was unable to try. After all the LSU campus is quite large, and I am just one guy tailgating, but this should give you an idea of what was there. If only you could smell through you computer screen. The smell as you walked past these outdoor tailgating kitchens was amazing! This was my first time to Louisiana and I am already thinking about a return trip to learn more about the cuisine.
In walking around I found some very spirited dogs..
lots of cornhole and…
plenty of beer pong.
The attitudes toward Nick Saban didn’t stop at the T shirts. This little voodoo doll expresses this LSU fan’s opinion about him. Of course I had to get a picture in front of Tiger Stadium.
When the game started there were 92,000 or so people inside Tiger Stadium.
and thousands of more outside watching the game!
Overall, I was incredibly impressed with what I found at LSU. With this being the 9th stop on the tour, the expectations of what I would see were quite high. These expectations were exceeded in what I found. Thanks again to Jay, Scott, and everyone else I met while tailgating in Baton Rouge. I can’t wait to tailgate again at Tiger Stadium this weekend.
This weekend I am headed to Auburn for stop #10 on the tour. The Auburn Tigers are one of the best teams on the field, but how will they stack up in their pregame activities? Stop bye next week to find out.