Tailgaters enjoy pre-game spirits

Craig Gustafson

Tailgating at college football games is an art form at many universities across the country. At the University, however, it has been an activity with a small, but loyal following.
Ryan Satre, a sales and promotions executive at the University, said an attempt is being made to increase the college football experience.
“What we want people to know about Gopher Football Saturday is that it’s not just the game, it’s a whole day,” he said.
The University is beginning its fourth year of sanctioned tailgating at the Washington Avenue lots located between Portland and 10th Street. The city of Minneapolis did not allow tailgating prior to the sanctioning. The University currently has a partnership with Standard Parking, the company that owns the Washington Avenue lots.
The first game of the season Saturday against Ohio University brought out several hundred tailgaters hours before kickoff, though Satre said he expects that number to increase sharply once the Big Ten season rolls around.
“I expect 3,000 tailgaters for the Big Ten games,” he said. “This weekend a lot of people are traveling or moving in so the numbers aren’t as high.”
Those able to attend were treated with football throwing contests, cheerleaders, and a variety of music, provided by Classic Hits 100 FM, the U of M marching band, and the alumni band.
Randy Temple, an alumni band member, said he loves to come back and play his trombone at Gophers football games. “It seems to help raise spirits and get people excited about the game,” he said.
In fact, some fans were more excited about the events outside than the game itself. The prospect of grilling up brats, burgers, and even omelets and then washing them down with cold alcoholic beverages appealed to more than a few of the Gophers tailgaters.
“It’s a lot better than it used to be,” Chase Rankin, a recent graduate, said as he turned over a sizzling brat on his grill. “It’s a more festive environment. They could make a bowl game this year and possibly beat one of the powerhouses in the Big Ten.”
Herman Haayer, father of starting left tackle Adam Haayer, was also tailgating and agreed. “They’re going all the way,” he said. “They’ve worked hard in practice. They’re ready for it.”
Haayer also agreed that tailgating is an activity everyone should try. “I’ve been doing this for three years now. It’s a lot of fun.”
Satre said there is a core group of tailgaters who come down to the parking lots before each game regardless of the team’s record. Players’ parents and several alumni are the majority of the diehard tailgaters. Satre said Gophers tailgating is entertainment geared toward families and students, though more students need to get involved like other top football schools in the country.
“They need to get a feel for the college football atmosphere,” he said. “College football, opposed to the pros, is more about community and spending Saturday together. It’s about bringing students and alumni together.”
Satre said the $7 charge to get into the tailgating lots is an inexpensive price to pay to have a couple hours of pre-football fun. “It’s not real structured. We like to keep it informal. Show up, bring what you want, win some prizes, and go to the game.”

Craig Gustafson welcomes comments [email protected]