Sunday, September 04, 2005

Tailgating 101

Our first home Iowa Hawkeye football game has come and gone. Living a block from the stadium means that parking cars and tailgaters are a large part our new Saturday morning routine. University Heights (the tiny town we live in surrounded by Iowa City) allows residents to park cars in their yards for home games. This is an old (and for many profitable) tradition. I took a few shots on Friday afternoon while it was quiet and then on Saturday morning to give a feel for what it was like yesterday.

The University of Iowa Hawkeyes are ranked #11 nationally and since there are no major professional sports teams in the state of Iowa, college athletics are huge around here. Iowa's success means that many of their games are broadcast regionally by ESPN, but given the state's small population, and perception by the major sports media that Iowa is not a "marquee" program that would attract a national audience, games are scheduled at less than desireable times in order to accomodate TV. In my childhood all games started at 1:00 PM. Now most games kickoff at 11:00 AM except for those that start at 2:35 PM. Hence the screwy tailgating rituals.

Tailgating (partying with lots of food and drink next to your car) is a major activity for Hawkeye fans. Neighbors behind and beyond our house all park cars for profit. The going rate this year is $20.00 per car per game. Most of our neighbors get people to commit to the whole season and pay in advance. Our other neighbors have a son on the team, so other parents of players are parking there. We were their overflow lot, and did park some friends, and still have room for one paying customer by chance.

The first folks arrived before 6:00 AM. By 6:30 the smell of brats and eggs was everywhere, and the sounds of the marching band warming up by section (kicked off by the drums) on the other side of the railroad ravine were easily heard. At one point I could simultaneously pick out "The Iowa Fight Song," "The Star Spangled Banner," and "In Heaven There Is No Beer." By 8:00 crowds of "bumblees" (black and gold striped outfits) were swarming all along the street. My personal favorites are the folks in black and gold vertically striped overalls, and nice nod to our agricultural stereotype, and god knows we need the slimming effect of the stripes.

At 8:30 the screaming whistle announced the arrival of the "Hawkeye Express" passenger train's first load at the stadium train gate. By 9:00 cars were coming down asking if we had space for sale. By my estimation our end of Golfview parked a total of nearly 75 cars. Also at 9:00 our youngest came tearing outside with her birthday outfit, (yes it was her 4th birthday yesterday too) a Hawkeye cheerleader costume. She and her older sister then peddled rice krispie treats and puppy chow snacks that we made the night before at 50 cents a bag. They sold out in an hour. We hung out in the yard and chatted with the players parents, some of our friends came by, and Pete showed up to work on the cement board for the tile installation. I requested that the folks who parked in our yard run over my dirt pile a few times, since we've had so little rain since drilling the geothermal system, the pile has hardly settled.

The game was great, the Hawks won 56-0. The stadium renovations (see Aug. 23 blog entry) are wonderful. More folks came by after the game and we hung out and watched people leave. At 7:00 PM Rowan and I took a bike ride around the stadium, and while there are bags of garbage piled everywhere, not a can or bottle was in sight, I love our deposit law!

Next home game is Sept. 17th, against Lisa and my alma mater the University of Northern Iowa.


SmilingJudy said... times. I used to live a few blocks from the KU campus in Lawrence. So nice to sit in the house and hear the band and crowds. Going anywhere was a real pain on game days, but as long as you knew their schedule, it was all good.

ben said...

We lived in Lincoln, NE back in 1995-96. I'd swear the whole state crammed into the stadium for games - a sea of red.

Mike said...

I thought this might draw some similar midwestern campus comments.

Judy: I did move our station wagon to my office (10 minutes by bike) in case we really needed a car.

Ben: I remember reading that when Kinnick Stadium is full (70,500) it is the 9th largest "city" in the state of Iowa.

I forgot to mention that our neighbor, Alex, was one of 5 true freshmen to play in the game, another great reason for enjoying the day.

Auntie said...

Hey where are the pictures of the birthday girl in her cheerleader outfit and her "Big Sister" selling the treats - and by the way, how much money did those two cute blondes rake in? Love, "The Aunt"

Mike said...

I try not to post pictures of the girls here, and to be honest, they weren't around when I shot those on Saturday.

The kids made nearly $15 selling rice krispie treats and puppy chow. They earned several tips and have decided setting up in Mike and Amy's yard should get them more business.