Welcome to the 4th stop on the tailgating tour. Now that I have had my Peachy Paterno, I was ready to check out the tailgating scene in Happy Valley. I was present for the September 25th game against Temple. Here is a summary of what I discovered in my first PSU tailgate.
Tailgating at Penn State is an experience. When Beaver stadium is filled it is the third largest city in the state of Pennsylvania. At maximum capacity it has seated over 110,000 people. That means that there are just as many tailgaters. What makes Penn State unique is that they have the most land I have ever seen to tailgate on. At Virginia Tech I parked in what I thought were some pretty big parking lots, PSU re-defined my definition of big.
To begin tailgating, all you need is the $10 yellow parking pass and it is first come first serve with the lots opening at 8am. If you do not buy this yellow pass a head of time it is $40 to park on game day. You can get your pass at the basketball arena’s ticket office. This yellow parking ticket will let you park in any of the 15 general lots. There are some lots that the majority of students park in and I will refer to them throughout the post as student lots, but really any car with a yellow pass may park there.
Let me clarify what I mean by parking lots. At VT the lots were asphalt and used by students and faculty during the week. At PSU, the lots are grass and are intermural sports fields used by students during the week or in the off season they are used by cows. Notice how there is a gate and barbed fencing. Looks like a pasture to me.
Here is what my lot looked like when I arrived at 8:30.
I was not the only one ready to start my tailgating this early.
Here is that same field at the 3:30 kickoff.
Here is a side by side. There are some people with passes who parked right next to the stadium.
What was empty the day before…
The next day was filled with tailgaters.
After parking, I headed over to investigate the RV lots. When I was checking out campus the day before, I noticed that a lot of RVs had already arrived. This was not a bad idea. Hotels on game days in State College are not easy to find. The night before, I ended up staying about 50 minutes away in Altoona. RVing seems like a pretty good way to go. You can party before the game and then instead of worrying about driving home after the game, you can continue tailgating and sleep in your RV.
In the RV lot, I had the fortune of running into Len and his friends. Len’s tailgating set up was one of the most complete set ups I have ever seen.
He had everything you could need, even a kitchen sink and an oven! I had never seen an oven at a tailgate before, and Len definitely made use of it.
Fresh baked muffins while tailgating! That is not something you will see everyday.
Len’s tailgate was also making some beautiful breakfast potatoes on the grill top. Thanks again to Len and company for letting me hang out with you. You guys were a lot of fun and had an awesome tailgate. As I continued walking through the RV lot, I came across many fellow tailgaters making breakfast.
Bacon, sausage, and potatoes were a very common site, but I really like the way these tailgaters were thinking.
In Wisconsin, I found people starting their tailgating with Bloody Marys, personally I think these Mimosas are the better way to go.
The RV lot was full of some pretty serious PSU tailgaters. I loved the dressed up skeletons. As I was leaving the lot and headed towards the stadium I cam across this awesome car!
That vehicle is full of Penn State pride. In route to the stadium, I came across another tailgating vehicle, but this one was on a slightly larger scale.
Upon seeing this PSU decked out bus, I had to take a look inside.
The Great White Tailgate’s Bus was not the only awesome part of their tailgate, the food was a amazing as well.
They were grilling up some delicious venison…
I had never seen chicken hearts on a grill before..
Fresh steamed clams…
And were in the process of making salted potatoes.
Of course tailgating is not complete without shots of Game Day Punch. A mix of different fruit juices alcohol and soda. Tasted like a winning combination to me.
Thanks to Cheech and the rest of the Great White Tailgate for letting me join in on your party!
After leaving the Great White Tailgate and RV lots I headed to the stadium on my way to find where the students tailgated.
About 4 hours before kick off, I came across students already waiting for the game. Student section seating is first come first serve. so these guys were definitely going to have the best seats. There was also a V for Vendetta themed guy. He would not be the last interesting character I would see.
With it being late September in PA, the signs of fall were all around. Everywhere you could park a vehicle there was a tailgate happening. With a mix between cars and RVs there was no shortage of tailgates to be found.
As you can see the stadium is enormous. It dominates the horizon wherever you are tailgating. As I walked around the stadium I noticed large groups of people with cases of beer in their hands. I think I found the students. I decided to follow the beer and sure enough, I was able to find the lots of where the majority of the students tailgate.
Here are what the student fields look like before game day. I was told these are fields used by students during the week for intermural sports.
On game day these fields are filled with a sea of navy and white. Cars park in rows with space between each row for tents, grills, coolers, chairs, and whatever else you desire for your tailgate. Looking out upon row after row of tailgaters, it was cool to see the different flags used.
In continuing with my nautical analogy, these flags come in handy for navigation purposes. Navigating through these tailgating waters can be quite difficult. It was amazing how many people were in these fields. Telling you friends what flag you are near would be a helpful way to find people.
For the first few minutes I stood there in awe. The amount of people, cars, food, beer, and Penn State pride was overwhelming. Once the initial overwhelming sensation of seeing so many tailgaters passed. I set out to see what I could discover.
As far as the dress code for Penn State tailgating, jerseys were the most dominant article of clothing I saw.
Whether home of away, you can’t go wrong. If a jersey is not your style then there are plenty of different T shirts you could wear.
There were a few individuals who decided that a jersey or a t shirt were not quite their style.
Here was my favorite outfit of the day…
The Penn State Storm Trooper.
Food wise there was nothing too crazy.
Burgers and Brats were quite common…
as were Buffalo Wings. The most interesting food I came across were…
Cheesesteaks being made. With Philadelphia only a few hours away, seeing cheesesteaks definitely made me hungry.
Within these student tailgates there was no shortage of beer to be found. What goes well with beer? Drinking games of course!
Beer pong of course was very popular. I was incredibly impressed by this person’s table.
Yes that is real grass. I had never seen a beer pong table you had to water and fertilize By the end of the season the table will be a complete replica of Beaver Stadium. Very cool.
There was also plenty of games of flip cup. At Virginia Tech, I saw this game for the first time and was shocked to see it again!
Beer, nails, hammer and a log. It doesn’t necessarily sound like a good idea to me, but I guess it must be pretty fun if this is the second time I have seen the game.
There was a new game I was introduced to.
I didn’t catch the name but it involves 2 teams, 4 beers, and 2 ping pong balls. The object of the game is for your team to finish their beers first. Team A throws their ping pong balls at Team B’s cans.
The balls bounce off the cans and Team B must catch them and put them back on the table. While team B is chasing after the ping pong balls, Team A is drinking their beer. First team to finish their beers wins.
I am sure there are other rules that go on with this, but this is just what I picked up from watching. It was pretty entertaining to watch people chase after ping pong balls with all the tailgaters around. Another entertaining part of tailgating with students was when the band came through.
There is a paved road that separates two of the fields. A few hours before game time, the PSU band dances and plays their way down this road in route to the stadium.
With the large amount of aluminum cans being used, I was very impressed with PSU’s recycling efforts. There were students handing out recycling bags and in the parking/RV lots there were plenty of stands with free bags for you to use.
I had a blast hanging out with everyone I met tailgating that day, but unfortunately all good things must come to an end.
As the 3:30 kickoff approached, fans began filing into the stadium. At PSU you are not allowed to continue drinking at your tailgate while the game is going on, so on that note my tailgating coverage was coming to a close and it was time to begin my 9 hour drive back to Charlotte,NC.
They say bigger is better. Penn State proved this to be true. With a max capacity of 110,000 it is hard to imagine anyone having a bigger tailgate than the folks in Happy Valley. They have more people and more tailgating land than any place I have ever seen. When you combine these two things with the passion demonstrated by PSU fans, you get one heck of an experience. The word experience is correct here. The sights sounds and smells of PSU tailgating is something that can only be experienced by being there. I know that this will not be my last trip to Happy Valley and if you are a college football fan, game day in Happy Valley is a must experience.
Of course I couldn’t leave with out getting a picture with Joe Paterno!
Well the statue at least. Thank you again to everyone I met and talked with in Happy Valley. I really appreciate all of your hospitality and kindness. On Friday I am headed off to the 5th stop on the tour. The Red River Rivalry in Dallas, TX. I will watch Texas and Oklahoma play on the Texas State Fair grounds. Be sure to check in next week to see what I find.