By Madison Farquar
Football, barbeque and beer: three American traditions. Which is exactly what one would find outside Northwestern State University’s Turpin Stadium on Sept. 8, the day of the school’s season opener against Grambling.
As soon as you pass through the Prather Coliseum parking lot and into Pitchfork Pass, the designated student tailgate area, your senses are bombarded from every direction.
The smell of grilling meat pierces through the thick, muggy air.
Nicki Minaj’s “Fefe” blares over two professional speakers guarded by Pi Kappa Phi pledges. The bass rumbles, shaking the ground.
An assortment of Pi Kappa Alpha brothers quickly form a straight line to catch the next verse of Poppa Hussein’s “I’m Lit.”
Other students gather in the middle of the field to compete against each other in a round of volleyball. The lush, green grass they are standing on saves the feet of those who no longer are wearing shoes.
Girls’ screams penetrate the wall of music while reuniting with long lost sorority sisters.
A Kappa Alpha alumni reminisces with an active member over a Natty Light.
Everywhere you look there are people of different ages and different walks of life, all involved in different organizations. What connects this assorted group of humans? School spirit.
“My favorite part about tailgating is seeing all of the student body gather in the same place knowing that we are all there for one common purpose: to rally before we go cheer on our fighting demons,” says Inda Gurley, 20.
In fact, school spirit has turned tailgating into a sport of its own.
Multicolored tents lined in rows cover intricately set up lounge areas, holding tailgaters for hours before kickoff.
At the very right of Pitchfork Pass you will find two extremely large wooden letters. The letters read “Kappa Sigma” in Greek.
Behind these mountainous letters lies a full-size jon boat filled with ice, bottled water and Natty Light. Behind that lies three couches and a functioning television.
Completing this parking lot penthouse is nothing less than a trailer holding an industrial size smoker.
“Forty more minutes on the tenderloin,” yells out Martin Gould, 22, holding a spatula in one hand, a beer in the other.
Sprinting towards the Kappa Sigma tent with a hearty grin on his face is an unexpected fan, a Labrador retriever named Jax.
According to his dad, the honorary Kappa Sigma brother loves being around large groups of people.
“He loves tailgates and people, so every chance I get to bring him around people, I do,” says Josh Hickman, 20, smiling as he watches his dog greet new people.
As the young lab wanders throughout the crowd of tailgaters there is no shortage of smiles. Jax approaches a small circle of giggly girls and is immediately greeted by head scratches and words of affirmation.
Other admirers greet Jax with torn pieces of hamburger or hot dog, plenty of water and even more loving gestures.
It’s not a coincidence that Jax is a tailgate superstar; it seems to run in the family.
“I love tailgating because there’s nothing better than spending time with the boys and watching football,” Hickman says.
Hours after it began, tailgating leaves Pitchfork Pass covered in red Solo cups, beer cans and paper napkins.
A freshman girl fixes her lipstick in the front camera of her iPhone.
A shirtless pledge begins picking up the trash surrounding his tent.
A circle of students shotgun one last beer.
“I’m Lit” once more blares in the distance over a speaker, but this time no one dances.
An older man wakes up from a nap on a tent-covered couch, wiping his eyes and staring at his phone screen.
The NSU fight song begins booming loudly from Turpin Stadium.
All around the tailgate field people begin to wander towards the sound of NSU school spirit.
Jamie Phillips, 20, begins walking toward the blaring sound, her arms around her two best friends. She steps over a red Solo cup and onto the concrete path.
“It’s game time,” she says.
Photo by Madison Farquar.