Tailgating at Ohio State

Welcome to the final stop of the Tailgating Tour! The final week of the college football season is rivalry week. There are many great rivalries across the country and deciding which to attend was a tough decision. Being a Big Ten Alum (Go Badgers), I have always been drawn to one rivalry in particular. The Big Ten doesn’t have a championship game (well next year it will), but for many years the Ohio State vs. Michigan game has decided the Big Ten champion. This game on Nov 27, 2010, was no different. For Ohio State to claim a share of the Big Ten title they needed a win over the Wolverines. Here is what I discovered at the 107th edition of “The Game” in Columbus.

Kickoff in Columbus was at noon, so I arrived at 6:45 am. 5 hours before kickoff there were plenty of people already setting up and beginning their tailgating. After spending the last month in the SEC, I had forgotten that it was the end of fall and approaching winter. In my four years at Wisconsin, I had gotten used to cold temperatures and tailgating in literally freezing conditions. When I saw that the high for game day was 38 I was still in the mindset that high 30s wasn’t too bad. I still had the Midwestern mentality about temperature, but lets just say my mind and body didn’t agree. I guess living in California and North Carolina for the last 3 winters has made me a wuss again. At 6:45 the temperature with the wind chill was 22 F. I quote the windchill because I re-learned just how much colder it is with the wind constantly blowing.

Tailgating at Ohio State takes place in parking lots and in areas around the stadium. From what I was told, the public/RV lots near the Track and Baseball stadiums were where most of the tailgating action took place. With this being a noon kick off there was a limited amount of time to search around. In driving around Columbus the day before I noticed a lot of student housing not to far from the stadium, I am sure there are plenty of student tailgates similar to Wisconsin there. Tailgating in the parking lots reminded me a lot of Virginia Tech. The asphalt was used for parking, while the grass traffic islands were full of tents and tailgaters. The ideal parking spots were right next to the grass islands, so naturally those filled up first. I spent a while talking to fans and hanging out in the parking lots.

With this being the coldest game I had visited, I saw several cold weather tailgating adaptions.

When tailgating in freezing temperatures, a space heater is a necessity.

I have seen tents at almost all of the tailgates I have been to, but at Ohio State the tents had a slight modification. To combat the wind chill, all the tents had plastic tarps hung on them to block the wind and hopefully keep tailgaters warm inside. Cold weather also meant a change in game day attire. With Ohio State being a Big Ten school, I was expecting to see similar attire to what I saw at Wisconsin and Penn State. I visited these other schools back in September and with this being late November, clothing adjustments were found.

Hats of all shapes and sizes were found everywhere! Wisconsin fans don’t judge me for this, but I had under estimated the need for a hat so I had to buy an Ohio State hat to stay warm.

Where there are hats, there are gloves as well! I was surprised to see such a high number of football gloves.

Did they help with one’s ability to throw and catch during a parking lot game? Not sure, but they did their job in keeping one’s hands warm.

The jersey over a sweatshirt was a very common look. For those of you who don’t know, Ohio State’s mascot is the Buckeye. What is a Buckeye you ask?

A Buckeye is the State Tree of Ohio. The tree is more known for its nuts that were found adorning the necks of many fans.

I also saw a man who made an entire suit out of shakers! I couldn’t even begin to guess at how many of these shakers he used to create his suit. I also met Tom Junior the rally monkey! The best costume I saw of the entire day and arguably one of the best I have seen during the entire trip went by the name of Warnut.

Very impressive what you can do to an old Halloween costume.

In addition to cars, the parking lots around the track and baseball stadiums had plenty of RVs.

Of course there were plenty of corn hole games in front of the RVs.

RVs weren’t the only vehicles in these other lots. I have seen buses at tailgates before, but Ohio State had the largest bus population of any tailgate I had been to.

The level of restoration and details found in these buses were amazing!

This is just one example, but the same level and attention to detail were found in every bus I saw.

RVs are cool, but personally, I am much more impressed at a revamped old school bus.

With a noon game, I saw an interesting culinary scene at Ohio State. Most people only had time to cook one meal, so there was a split between breakfast and lunch.

On the breakfast side I saw something new.

I saw a tailgater making these aluminum dishes

Add an egg to them, cook up some sausage and toast English muffins, add some cheese  and you have created….

Your own version of a popular fast food breakfast sandwich.

I also saw the beginnings of a Bacon Scrambler.

On the lunch side I saw…


7 layer dip, wings, and  sausage with peppers. With this being “The Game” one group of tailgaters went all out. You could say they went whole hog…

literally, they cooked an entire 130lb pig. I saw pigs down at LSU, so it was nice to see one again in Ohio.

There is something intoxicating about pulled pork. I could talk for hours and show you dozens of additional pictures, but if you have ever had pulled pork right off a whole hog, you know what I am describing. If you have yet to try this culinary delight, I highly suggest you find an opportunity to. A whole hog on a late November morning in Columbus, Ohio, for the “The Game”, really it is hard to find a better setting for a college football fan.

Around 9:30 I left the parking lot and headed over to the football stadium.

The walk to the stadium was about 15 minutes. There is another option to walking.

There are plenty of pedi cabs that for a fee will gladly shuttle you to the stadium. Once you get over to the stadium you have several options. You can join other tailgaters in the reserved lots or you can watch the pregame shows in the Parking lot of Riverwatch Tower.

Ohio State’s band is pretty famous. They have a tradition called dotting the i. A selected member dots the the letter i when the band spells out the word Ohio on the field. I didn’t go to the game, so I was unable to witness this tradition, but I did get to visit their pregame skull session.

2 hours before kickoff inside St. John Arena, the band, players and fans take part in a pep rally they call a skull session.

As you can see St. Johns Arena is completely packed with thousands of fans watching the band. I definitely appreciated this tradition taking place inside.

When the Skull Session is complete, the band lines up and marches across the street into the Stadium.

Ohio Stadium is also known as the “horse shoe”. Unlike most stadiums that are in an oval or a rectangle, the “shoe” is in a horse shoe shape.

As the 102,000 plus fans began the journey to their seats, my tailgating in Columbus was done.

As I crossed the bridge and headed back to my car, I saw plenty of fans still making their way to the game.

As with all tailgates there are more people tailgating than the stadium can hold. “The Game” was no different. There were hundreds if not thousands of people still in the parking lots watching to see if their Buckeyes would be able to pull out the win. As for me, I had a 7 and a half hour drive back to Charlotte with plenty of football to listen to on the way.

I would say stop bye next week to check out the next stop on the tailgate tour, but as hard as it my be to believe, this was the last stop!

13 weeks ago I set out on this ambitious and insane  journey. 16,000 miles of traveling and 13 tailgates later I can’t believe it has come to an end. I learned a lot while visiting 13 different schools and met some of the coolest people I have ever come across! I have eaten amazing food and taken part in some amazing traditions. I have spent almost 5 days driving in my car and now have my favorite rest stops on I-77 and I-85.

There are a lot of questions that I get asked about this tour and I will address them in a later post as well as have a poll where you can rank your favorite tailgates, but I will tackle one now, and that is what next? That is a good question, I am still trying to figure that out. I am in the process of putting together a book proposal to turn this project into a book. The book will contain behinds the scenes stuff about the tour, recipes of my favorite tailgating food, how to design your ultimate tailgate, and  my rankings and analysis of where the best tailgating scene in the country is.

Thank you to everyone who I have met on the tour. I could not have done this without your hospitality and support.

Thank you to everyone who has followed the tour and left comments. I love hearing your opinions and really appreciate you taking the time to read the posts each week.

Thank you again and have a great rest of your week!

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  1. Mike Jehle (aka @THEKID_) says

    Great as always Taylor.

    Have really enjoyed the posts this year. Best of luck on your book deal and count me in when it’s published!

  2. Tom says

    Hey Taylor,

    Awesome finished product! This is Tom “Senior”…the owner for Tom Junior. It was cool to meet you and hear about your journey. Any of you reading this, please feel free to add the rally monkey, Tom Junior, that Taylor has linked on this page as a Facebook friend!! Good Luck!


  3. says

    Boy, does that pulled pork look good! Found you via Foodgawker…and am now salivating all over my keyboard. I also like the breakfast sandwich/aluminum cup business. People are so inventive.

    I’m glad you had fun at the game, but it sure does look bitter cold and I’m just as happy myself to have you go and me staying here, snug in my warm house, reading about it online. Go U of M!

  4. Kim says

    As a proud Buckeye myself, I have to say your photos got me a little misty. Thanks for capturing the buckeye spirit so beautifully.

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