Locals who love football season share their enthusiasm
By Mariah Kline
Photos by Andrea Hutchinson
Autumn means the return of football season and the countless fans who are eager to support their favorite teams. The tradition of tailgating adds even more excitement to the season, and for some people, the ritual plays a massive role. To get a closer look at the experience, we spoke with a group of veteran tailgaters to talk about the food, fun and friendship of it all.
Joe Kelly, who works for ESPN Radio, is a former University of Louisville student and a passionate Cards fan who has been tailgating for 14 years. This season, he and his friends are collaborating with FDKY BBQ, 93.9 The Ville, TheCrunchZone.com and Red Rage Tailgate to host five epic pre-game parties at the Tailgating Caboose. The food is free from FDKY and beer is too, thanks to Great Flood Brewing. Kelly and the team just ask that anyone who stops by to consider dropping some money into the bucket for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“If you don’t have anything to eat or a grill to use, come by and we’ll feed you,” he affirmed.
Kelly revels in the fun with his wife of nine years, Melissa Kelly, who also loves the experience.
“I love sports, so any time there’s anything sports-related going on where we can get together with people, it’s an awesome experience,” she said. “We’ve even been to hockey games and tailgated for those as well.”
“It’s a real family atmosphere,” Melissa explained. “A lot of times there’s anxiety around the game, and you need to chill out, have some barbecue and meet some people. We’ve made a lot of friends, we see old friends and we enjoy good food.”
Joe and Melissa’s friends Tom and Elisa Farmer are also avid tailgaters and UofL fans. Additionally, Tom is president of the Louisville Coopers, the independent supporter organization for Louisville City FC, which makes him a pro at organizing fan events.
“It’s not about one sport versus another,” said Tom. “It’s really about getting a lot of people together and enjoying it as much as possible. Joe and I are looking forward to bringing all of the various tailgating elements together, and we should have a lot of fun this year.”
Dave Scull has tailgated since the age of eight and played as a walk-on for UofL’s football team in 2002. He especially enjoys the sense of camaraderie and unity.
“I love the culture of it,” he said. “There’s nothing like it. We wait for this all year, and we’ve been going stir crazy all summer just waiting for the first football game.”
For those who have little to no tailgating experience, everyone we spoke with agreed that self awareness and hydration are key to having a good time. Drinking plenty of water, wearing sunscreen and pacing yourself can mean the difference between a great day and a complete disaster.
With the right food (particularly barbecue) and friends (old or new), it’s undeniable that tailgating is an activity any fan can enjoy.
“Come one, come all,” Scull said. “Everybody’s welcome. It’s an egalitarian society out there. Come out and have a beer with us.” VT
Collision Course Crew Brings Tailgating to a New Level
By Jennifer McNelly
Photos courtesy of Collision Course Crew
It is hard to think of football without the time-honored tradition of tailgating. Food. Fans.
Drinks. All celebrated from the back of a pick-up truck outside of a stadium.
For friends Bill Jones, Kevin Weatherholt, Bryan Byars, Craig Pennington, Justice Jones and Garrett Hoover, tailgating has become a whole new ball game.
When Collision Course Crew started two years ago, the guys had set out to change the face of tailgating for not just their friends and family but for the entire football community in the Louisville area.
“We started tailgating out of the back of our pick-up truck,” says Bill, “and we thought, ‘Hey, let’s do something bigger. Let’s get our own trailer.’”
Collision Course Crew’s 20 feet by 8 feet, totally renovated trailer proves that tailgating is not just hanging out in trucks and passing time before the start of a game. Oh no. For these guys and girls, tailgating is where the fun truly happens. And it has become a way of life.
“The Red Rage Tailgate (which has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’ three times) really started it all and is known for the cool University of Louisville memorabilia they have. We are more of a mobile sports bar. That’s our niche,” explains Bryan.
“But we aren’t Red Rage,” inserts Bill. “We are Collision Course Crew. We want to be the next big thing.”
Heading into their second season, Collision Course is ready to debut on Sept. 8 with a number of upgrades. With a state-of-the-art sound system, deejay software, fully-equipped bar and bowling alley bar top, multiple big screen television sets and more, the crew is excited and prepped to cheer on their University of Louisville Cards on the corner of Crittenden Drive by Cardinal Café.
“Most of our gear has been donated,” says Craig. “It’s been great and we are really thankful.”
Last year, Collision Course’s trip to Indianapolis brought out a record high of 250 fans. “This year, we don’t want to do only home games,” explains Craig. “We are planning to travel to a number of away games, too. Indy was awesome! We want to see more of that.”
Kevin expresses his hopes to really put Louisville and Collision Course Crew on the map as one of the “tailgating musts.”
“If you go to a place like (Utah State University) or Alabama, tailgating parties like this are a normal thing. I want UofL football to be ‘big boy football.’ I want people to drive hundreds of miles to come tailgating.”
So, what if red and black aren’t exactly your team’s colors? No worries. There is room for you, too, at Collision Course Crew.
“We have Kentucky fans that come hang out with us too,” says Garrett. “We don’t care who you cheer for. If you come, you are going to be welcome no matter what. You are part of the family.”
Young, old, male or female, all are welcome and encouraged to experience what tailgating is all about at Collision Course Crew. You don’t even need tickets to the game. In fact, the crew prides themselves on creating a truely fun football environment without any of the negative stereotypes of tailgating.
“We don’t discriminate at all and I really love that,” says Sallie, Craig’s fiancé. “We aren’t just a bunch of drunk frat boys either. We really have a range of ages that come. It’s a real family environment.
“You can get the whole atmosphere and not have to go to the game,” she adds.
Once an idea among six friends, now a staple in the University of Louisville tailgating scene, Collision Course Crew hopes to blaze the trail for other tailgaters.
“This is just the start for us,” explains Bill. “We want to inspire people to start their own things, too. Hopefully, this turns into a parking lot full of other trailers, all of us together having a good time, making new friends and enjoying the fact that we all have at least one thing in common – we love football.” VT