Upon arrival and way before the pandemonium of the football game starts my senses are peeled as we make our way to the parking spot and follow my nose with all the grilling, barbecues and party atmosphere that takes over the masses. It is a certainty that at most sporting events these days you will at least first smell, see, touch and finally maybe get to taste some tailgating. All your senses go into hyper-drive as you prepare for the excitement of the game and make sure your sausages are grilled to perfection with a few beers or your libation of choice. And if you happen to miss the tailgate fare outside, have no fear because there are plenty of vendors to make up for that once inside the venue.
Opportunities for attending local sporting events gratis happens 2 or 3 times a year for us, and we have been lucky enough as our third this season was last night at the NC State Wolf Pack vs. Florida State Seminoles football game, and it is only the middle of college football season 2008. Last night we get to the parking spot about 90 minutes prior to kickoff and I get the sense that all this tailgating started days ago, but I know it is only a few hours, some of them have complete food stations in full function. Some of these folks have multiple parking spots taken up with huge tents covering folding tables with chaffing dishes, grills, coolers, plates, napkins, utensils, and food, plenty of food and drink too. Oh, and some of these enterprising tailgaters have portable generators with flat LCD or plasma panel TV’s hooked up to satellite dish networks and of course, watching their favorite sporting channel too. A party atmosphere dissects the next aisle over where these folks are screaming their favorite music into the next parking section…”I love rock and roll…put another dime in the juke box baby….”
Last year we attended three NC State home football games and one of them was in a corporate suite with complimentary food and drink to boot! This was a football game that NC State actually won, so that was the icing on the cake! The fodder included fried chicken fingers with two sauces, pulled barbecue pork and fresh buns for sandwiches, Cole slaw, fried catfish with cocktail and tarter sauces, barbecue meatballs, fruit and cheese display, vegetable tray, cookies, brownies and rice crispy treats too. And plenty of soft drinks, bottled beer and some liquor too! How can you pass up an open bar and on the house feast?
Back to last night…out of the van and walking past all these great tailgating posts I ogle the great spreads and sundry displays each a personal exhibit of those who planned them in advance and created them with great pride and a little sweat too, as we hit a high temp record at 86° yesterday. Some spreads as simple as a box of chicken from the local fast food joint, or as elaborate as a grill attached to the back bumper of the SUV and some others loaded with pork ribs, sausages, kabobs, chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, anything that can be grilled on an open flame. I would have paid some of them for a taste of their savory flavors, but it was only a thought. Maybe next time I will get up the courage to ask the gurus of tasty tailgate for a sampling or two, or three, or….
Speaking of boxed chicken, our only hands-on experience with tailgating was a few weeks ago at the NC State and Boston College football game, and was really not fully achieved in the true sense of the word as we were running late. Pulling into the parking spot just 10 minutes before kickoff with our Bojangles Chicken Tailgate Special we were scurrying in a mad dash to finish off the 12 pieces of fried chicken with biscuits, two sides and a ½ gallon of sweet tea. We made it to our seats 5 minutes before kickoff, whew!
Over the past three years most of the football tickets are compliments of Monique’s work where many of the staff are NC State alumni and possess season tickets. We also have a neighborhood friend who has NC State football season tickets and has obliged us with 2 games this year. We have been fortunate enough to also attend a few Carolina Hurricanes NHL hockey games on other folk’s tabs and those are fun too.
Once we walked past all the tailgating in the parking lots we headed on over to the pre-game area near the RBC Center with plenty of tents and activities for fun times. Among the ESPN 360 display and the EA Sports NCAA tent with 20+ NCAA football video games in progress we also got to sample some free Coke Zero and kettle corn that was being passed out to accepting folks. I likened this to the amuse, or free nibbles before the real meal. Then I found a tent selling bags of pork cracklings for only $2.00. I had to get a bag and only got a chance to eat two pieces of the fresh fried pork skins, yummy! What a deal a huge bag of fresh fried pork cracklings, but I had to toss it out as the checker would not allow them in the stands. Oh well! I did get a little taste, so the appetizer was done.
Once into the gates I got us all some fresh hot soft pretzels, one with cinnamon sugar and two with salt and mustard. Those were very tasty as they are warmed over hot open coals, and a nice treat as a second course in my football game meal. Then we found our seats and I noticed that we still had plenty of time before the game so we headed back out and I got everyone some of the Nathan’s hot dogs, I also got an Italian sausage with grilled peppers and onions. Added a little yellow mustard to that and I was set to go! I love Nathan’s hot dogs; they are the skinless and full meat that really has a good flavor. Okay, now with the entrée done and the game still not started, but I sure was full now! At half time I was hot and wanted to cool down so I went and got a portion of soft frozen lemonade concoction and that hit the spot, but might make a perfect set-up for a margarita with some smuggled tequila, yet in the virgin state it was sweet enough to be my dessert. Maybe next time!
The Wolf Pack lost 17 – 26, but win or lose it was a fun night and thanks to our neighborhood friends Michael, Eric and family for another great evening of food and football. “WOLF…PACK…WOLF…PACK”
*BBQ photo is from biewoef’s collection aka Hilde Vanstraelen from Hasselt, Limburg, Belgium.