Tailgating has become NIU tradition

By Brenden Walz

Along with Huskie football, people coming to see the traditional Homecoming game might check out another tradition—tailgating.

The idea of tailgating involves bringing food, drink, a grill, a couple of people to share the food and drink with (anyone you want, since a tailgate is a private party) and something to sit on.

Also, an automobile is strongly recommended for taking both the grill and fellow partiers home.

Once the tailgate party begins at Huskie stadium, it is mainly a matter of finding a place to park and set up. The grassy areas and parking lots around Huskie stadium are available for tailgating. Fraternities, sororities and other groups will be allocated space in the track next to the football stadium, called the tent-a-gate area.

Alcohol is allowed, but it must be in aluminum cans. Glass bottles, party balls and kegs are not allowed.

If they pay $150 to NIU, the group gets a grill, a sign with their group’s name in big letters, a fold-up table with chairs and a tent. The tent is put up and taken down by NIU as a service.

Groups who come to NIU to tailgate may do so, but must stop before the first kickoff of the football game.

One point to remember when checking out the tailgate areas, the people who are tailgating are holding a private party. They are not there to give away or sell food, they are there to celebrate with their friends and to enjoy the evening.

“When we first started it, we had a few people who went from tent to tent and sampled food,” said Mary Mihelich, assistant athletic director of promotions and marketing. But Mihelich said the problem of people wandering up to get free food does not happen much now.

Since it began at NIU, tailgating has become an institution, said Mihelich.

Last year, around 35 tent spaces were sold. This year, Mihelich said over 44 spaces were sold.

People who tailgate turn the football game and the party into a celebration, she said.

“They do not just come in their car, park the car, get out of the car, take their ticket, go into the stands and watch their football game,” she said.

The celebrations can be elaborate, with people planning champagne breakfasts, decorating with pinatas or even setting up a dining room table with chairs and tableware.

“It just gives them a real festive environment to tailgate in,” Mihelich said of the tent-a-gate areas.