‘Everything is electric now’: Gather round, Gophers — gameday is back

Full-fledged fraternity tailgate season has commenced.

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Ethan Fine

Phi Kappa Psi fraternity members stand outside of their house tailgating prior to the Minnesota football game on Saturday, Sept. 11. The 2021-22 school year has seen the revival of fraternities tailgating before football games.

Sophia Zimmerman

It’s Saturday morning, the Gophers are set to play Miami-Ohio for the first Saturday home game of the season and the energy in the air is contagious. Students stroll down University Avenue at 8 a.m., Pedialyte in hand. Party buses fly by, lights flashing and exteriors shaking in sync to the dancing students inside. As the minutes tick by, students emerge one-by-one from the confines of their dorms, apartments and well-worn Dinkytown duplexes. Others exit the pristine front doors of their Greek-letter-clad houses, travelling in a sea of maroon and gold. The winding line at the Dinkytown Starbucks keeps pace with that of Al’s Breakfast’s, their respective employees cranking out caffeine and blueberry pancakes like nobody’s business. There’s a common understanding among every passerby this morning: it’s game day.

Third-year student Emily Bauer said that she was woken up in her Sydney Hall apartment by the sweet sound of clanging cowbells on the street below. “I looked at my watch, and it was literally 6:05 a.m … I mean come on, people — 6 a.m.?”

While a near-sunrise-start-time seems early to some, third-year student Dallin Swanson explains it’s necessary for a game taking place in the morning. After all, there’s only so much time to tailgate before kickoff.

“I’m on an hour of sleep — I was up at five, ready to go at six,” said Swanson, a flag raised in honor of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 flying in front of the Zeta Psi fraternity house behind him. “For an 11 a.m. game, we’ve got to get going.”

How does one “get going” when it comes to a fraternity tailgate?

There’s a handful of apparent necessities; gopheralls (sans shirt, of course), speakers capable of strongly projecting an assortment of EDM mixes to the masses, a handful of alumni (parents included) sprinkled among the students, countless red solo cups (bonus points if they’re filled with a mysterious liquid no one can quite identify) and if you’re one of the lucky ones, a ping-pong table sturdy enough to withstand the ebb and flow of attendees.

“It’s the atmosphere, just getting there,” first-year student Maddie Dahlberg said of her favorite part of game days. “It’s so exciting because everyone is just so hyped up.”

Rain or shine, it really is the energy that makes or breaks a successful game day tailgate. From the people perched on elevated surfaces, twisting and jumping to an electronic version of Vance Joy’s “Riptide,” to the groups flashing their megawatt smiles against the washed out brick wall of Delta Kappa Epsilon and everyone in between — Gopher fans and students know how to turn it up a notch.

While threats posed by the Delta variant loom in the back of everyone’s mind amid a return to mostly-normal campus operations, many on campus are trying their best to enjoy living in the present moment, however fleeting that moment may be.

“It’s like I have my life back. Everything is electric now,” third-year student Jason Jennette said. “It’s the same feeling I felt as a freshman. I’m a junior, but all of this somewhat feels like normal life.”