by Drew Rutherford, General Manager – Tailgate Tennessee
Tailgate Tennessee sets up more than 400 unique tailgates every football season – more than 1500 since 2012, in fact. In that time, we’ve learned something about Tennessee fans – we’re just downright better tailgaters than y’all.
Don’t mean to offend, bless your hearts, but sometimes the truth is a hard pill to swallow. I’m prepared to support this claim with six reasons why Vols tailgate best:
1. Neyland Stadium: a little dose of history sure does aid the atmosphere on Rocky Top. Named for former head coach General Robert Neyland, the home of the Vols is college football’s second-winningest home venue, hosting 461 wins since it opened 96 years ago. All that winning inside the gates of Neyland make for winning habits outside at the tailgate, too. Being the nation’s fifth-largest college football stadium doesn’t hurt, either.
2. Traditions: Yes, every school has traditions – hear me out. Two of the most hallowed traditions at Ole UT are the Vol Walk and the Salute to The Hill. Prior to kick-off each week, the Vols, led by head coach Butch Jones, huddle around the Torchbearer Statue before progressing into the stadium. Shortly thereafter, the Pride of the Southland Band marches by the same spot as they Salute The Hill before similarly entering the stadium. Both of these events get started in the heart of the tailgate scene at UT – Tailgate Tennessee.
3. Classy Touches: The Grove at Ole Miss is synonymous with upscale upgrades, but the Rebels ain’t got nothin’ on the Vols. Drapes, chandeliers and big screen TVs (powered by DISH) adorn the majority of tailgates we setup each week, and some of these parties more closely resemble living rooms than tailgate tents.
4. The Spread: If the Vols are hosting Florida, try walking through campus without a friendly face offering you some fried gator. But the spread is always serious at UT. Normal buffets offer everything from burgers and hot dogs to the Dead End BBQ nacho bar and Calhoun’s World-Famous ribs (two of our personal favorites). Low country boils, whole hogs (or gators, if the time is right) and an occasional deep fried turkey are never out of the question, either.
5. Cocktails: Signature drinks are the trend these days and the Vols certainly have some contenders. A longtime Knoxville favorite is the Ice Pick (4-5 parts sweet iced tea, 2 parts vodka, and fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste), and Vol fans were drinking it long before any John Daly! A Tennessee twist to the ice pick includes the Volunteer State’s most-famous son, Jack Daniels. Another common cocktail on UT game days is the Creamsicle (orange crush soda and whipped cream vodka).
6. Live music: If you play an instrument in this town, you best know Rocky Top. It ain’t nothing to see a live band at a tailgate, and on a big weekend we usually see two or three in our small footprint at Tailgate Tennessee. There is even a rumor that we’ll see dueling pianos at a tailgate this fall!
EXTRA POINT: If all that wasn’t enough for you, consider for a moment that a sizeable contingent of Vols fans make the commute to Neyland Stadium via water. The Vol Navy was founded when a former UT broadcaster began trying to avoid game day traffic by navigating the Tennessee River instead. That began a tradition that only a handful of other schools can boast. Yachts and pontoons and boats of all shapes and sizes began rolling into Knoxville’s Volunteer landing early in a game week and immediately begin sailgating.
Tailgating is serious business from coast-to-coast, but you’ll find none better than the tailgate parties thrown on Rocky Top. Win or lose, the Vols are undefeated at tailgate.