Yesterday was a UGA game day. The tailgating extravaganza is beginning another season along with the Dawgs. If you’ve never experienced an SEC tailgate, then well…..I’m sorry for you. It is its own species of social interaction. It encompasses the sights, the sounds, and the smells rolled into a wonderful kaleidoscope of energy and enthusiasm for all of the senses. It is a melting pot of red and black in all directions and a cornucopia of delicious aromas of smoking grills and the occasional cheers of Go Dawgs or the drum beat of the Redcoat Band. It probably looks and feels rather much the same as it has for the last century. However, it now boasts the anachronistic additions of technology in the form of televisions, sound systems, and the like.
I’ve been doing this a lot of years. It started back in my college days when I was embraced into a friend’s family tailgate that had been going on long before my birth. They knew what they were doing. They had it down to a science…from the drive into Athens, to parking in their special place, to the arrangement of the set up. It was amazing to see the organization of their tables and chairs and all of the UGA paraphernalia prominently displayed. They had their perfect spot under a giant oak tree on Ag Hill and dared anyone to ever usurp it. This wonderful family had many stories of ….back in the day….as they extended their food, beverages, and fellowship to us young’uns. We would just show up and enjoy the fruits of their labor and they would welcome us wholeheartedly into their circle. There was a veritable bouquet of delightfully southern signature dishes lovingly prepared and proffered generously to us…pineapple sandwiches, pimento cheese, deviled eggs, homemade ham rolls, cheese straws, pecan pies, and the like. Unknowingly they planted a seed in Steve and me that would begin to germinate and grow. That is precisely how traditions begin, isn’t it….with a seed.
My parents joined in somewhere along the way and my Mother faithfully contributed her fried chicken and sausage balls which eventually became legendary. So much so, that when my Mom passed away, Steve has vowed to never eat them again, because no one could possibly measure up to hers. They have been forever retired into the tailgating hall of fame. We miss you Mom, but you’ve left your mark in a way you could never have imagined!
The flavor of our tailgating has changed throughout the seasons of our life…..from our college days, as a young couple, through our parenting years with little boys in UGA gear tossing their tiny footballs, the years our sons claimed their Bulldawg heritage with their own stories to contribute, and finally now their young married years. Over time, we have developed our own signature items and have gotten our set-up down to a science. We now welcome others in to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We watch the little ones gambol and play in the grass in their pint size jerseys and miniature cheerleading uniforms. It has come full circle. I have always realized that we are connected to something so much greater than ourselves but never more than yesterday, when I stood back to observe our happy clan…where the lines between family and friends have blurred. It is a time honored tradition that allows the young and old to come together on common ground and reminisce about the love of a University, the love of a game, the love of a city, the love of the community that is born on a beautiful fall day in Athens Georgia. Seeds are being planted everywhere that will carry this tradition on long after we are gone. We are so honored to be a part of it. We will one day be proudly passing the torch that was once passed to us. And that, my friends is a Tree Star!