Tusk to Tail: Decades of tailgating memories, marriages, meals, and mixed drinks

The first time tailgating and sporting events merged was in 1869, at the inaugural football game between Princeton and Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J. Before the game began, Rutgers fans gathered to eat together while wearing scarlet scarves. Rutgers would beat Princeton 6-4 in a shootout.

Our Tusk to Tail crew visited Rutgers, the unlikely birthplace of college football, in 2013. My memories of that trip include walking through a student mosh pit after tailgating and the Hogs blowing a 17-point second half lead.

Among the hundred pictures I have in my Razorback-themed den, there is one that stands out, making me think of the memories I have of tailgating. It is a black and white photo of a family tailgating outside Razorback Stadium in the 1950s. The dad is wearing a suit. They are sitting up on the hill looking down on the stadium, back when it had a grass bowl on the north end for fans to sit. It looks like a picnic on a beautiful fall day, with boxed lunches and a 6-pack of RC Cola. Of course, it looks bare bones compared to what we do today. But sharing time together as a family before the Hogs take the field, probably against an old Southwest Conference rival, is timeless. The atmosphere before Arkansas beat Texas last year proved that.

My first memory of tailgating was Nov. 11, 1980, at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium. Lou Holtz’s Hogs were playing Texas Tech. After picking up my grandfather in Hot Springs, I remember getting buckets of KFC and standing behind our car on the War Memorial golf course on that cool fall day. Again, bare bones. Just eating and chatting about life and whether the Hogs would win later that afternoon. It’s a family memory I will always cherish because it was the only game I ever attended with my grandfather before he passed away in 1986. The Razorbacks were his life, and that day was the spark that lit the fire for my Razorback fandom today.

Fast forward to the late 90’s through 2010. My brother and I had a tailgate in the Northwest corner of Lot 44, known as the “The Pit” to Arkansas students and alumni. We called our tailgate “Mardi Hog Gras,” and helped kickstart tailgating in The Pit along with six other diehard groups. We had to park a car with our parking pass in it the night before every game sometime after 5 p.m. to get our usual spot. Then we would get there Saturday at 7 a.m. to set up our 2-3 tents.

Our area consisted of the tents, Razorback flags and a “Mardi Hog Gras” flag waving high in the air. Banners and red leather chandeliers hung from the tents, an idea that came from a trip to The Grove at Ole Miss. We bought “Lamar,” our stuffed Hog head, and proudly displayed him as the centerpiece of the tailgate where countless photos were taken by fans. He is now a staple of Tusk to Tail, and the endless photos continue with him. He has been featured on ESPN game intros many times, and we started a tradition of stuffing his mouth with the mascot of whomever we played.

We also had live music at least twice a season for the biggest games. We expected at least 75-100 friends every game, and we won best tailgate for big matchups against Texas and Tennessee. We were featured in the SEC Handbook for tailgating and also in a tailgating magazine.

In 2007 a friend brought a beautiful girl to the Auburn game. When we got home, I told another friend that I had met the girl I was going to marry. Robyn and I were married in 2009. I knew all the money I had spent on tailgating would pay off eventually.

Today, we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 2022 football season as we celebrate our 11th season of Tusk to Tail. There are 20 official members. We have taken tailgating to another level on campus in Victory Village North with two 20 x 20-foot tents, a full bar, two 60” televisions, and never-ending buffet. Tusk to Tail member Chef Brad grills for us a few times a year when he is up from Dallas. For other games, members bring food trays in waves from breakfast to lunch to late-afternoon snacks when it’s an all-day tailgate. Kara and Casey are two of the best bartenders around. The official drink of Tusk to Tail is a John Daly, a boozy version of an Arnold Palmer.

We write about our experiences, not only at home games but also on the road throughout the SEC. Most of us have been to every stadium in the SEC, and several more than once. Stories of bourbon tours in Lexington, where to put a little south in your mouth at each SEC town’s best restaurants, and preferred travel routes are just some of the topics Tusk to Tail has written about over the years.

I look forward to seeing all of our crew on Sept. 3 when the #17 Razorbacks take on the #19 Cincinnati Bearcats. I’m hoping it’s a gorgeous day on The Hill and not too hot for that 2:30 p.m. kickoff. But no matter the temperature, we will all be there. It’s like Christmas morning for a lot of us. Some of the original Tusk to Tail members have watched their kids at the tailgate grow to become UA students. Our love for Razorbacks tailgating now runs through our children’s veins.

Tailgating has certainly changed a lot since 1980 in Little Rock. One thing that has not changed is making great memories with our friends and families and our Tusk to Tail crew who feel like family. Cheers to making more great memories and a season to remember.

See you on The Hill.

Editor’s note: Now in its 11th year, Tusk to Tail is the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise for more than a decade. The primary focus of Tusk to Tail is to follow the Hogs through the fans’ perspective with their insightful, irreverent, smart-alecky and sometimes practical style. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter and Instagram, all @TuskToTail.

There are no comments

Add yours