For EWU tailgaters, gamedays are about more than just football

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For EWU tailgaters, gamedays are about more than just football

By Jeremy Burnham, Staff Reporter

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For many college football fans, Saturday is the best day of the week. And it’s not just about football, it’s about the entire experience. Fans don’t merely look forward to the game, they look forward to the festivities surrounding it. Besides watching the action on the field, tailgating is the next biggest event of the day.

Several hours before the EWU football team defeated Montana State University, Eagle fans from all over Washington gathered outside to tailgate. Fans traveled near and far to make it to the game; from Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, Tri-Cities, Yakima and many other places. And yes, some even came from Cheney and Spokane. While the city they came from varied from person to person, one thing was present in everyone: a love of Eagle football.

Tailgating means even more to two fans who attended the festivities on Saturday. For married couple Chad and Lindsey Powell, tailgating is a reminder of how they met.

“I met my wife here at a tailgate when we were in college,” said Chad Powell. “We didn’t know each other at all beforehand. We met through friends right here at a tailgate.”

Chad graduated in 2011, and he and his wife have been attending games ever since.

After we both graduated, we got married. We have two little kiddos, and we enjoy this great tailgate spot here whenever the Eags play,” he said. “It’s been great.

On this day, Chad and Lindsey weren’t alone. They were joined by many friends. Among them was fellow alumni Curtis Campbell. Campbell was in town all the way from Seattle. For him, coming back and tailgating is an opportunity to visit a campus he misses.

“I come a game or two a year,” Campbell said. “I miss everything about this campus. I miss having biscuits and gravy in the pub. I miss hanging out at the Easterner office when I used to be an editor there. I miss the atmosphere and being around close friends. The west side is a little different. Traffic is heavy. But my wife and I went to school here and we love coming back.”

Besides returning to a city and campus that are sources of memories for many people, there is another major feature of  the tailgate experience: the food. Hotdogs, burgers, roasts, briskets and mac’n cheese were just a few of the dishes being enjoyed by tailgaters. People brought smokers, grills and stovetops to prepare all of their favorites. To stay warm, they sat around fire pits. Others had RVs with kitchens inside.

Jeremy Burnham for The Easterner.

Katrina Lindsay was prepared with chicken, macaroni and cheese, and brisket.

“My son is a redshirt freshman,”  Lindsay said. “This is our first year tailgating. The first of many.”

Despite it being their first year, Lindsay and her family came prepared.

“Our setup is great,” Lindsay said said. “Having the RV here is nice. We’re able to stay warm. Thank God it’s not raining, but we’d still have a warm place to go. It’s nice to hang around with friends, talk football and talk about our kids.”

TVs and satellite dishes were other popular items. While most fans went into the stadium once the game started, some watched it on TV from the parking lot. Harlan Shellabarger was one of these people.

Harlan Shallabarger’s set up. Jeremy Burnham for The Easterner

“We have stadium seating here,” Shellabarger said. “We put our beach chairs in front of the TV because we don’t even go into the game. We watch it on TV and we listen for the crowd noise. We can just sit, eat, drink and have fun the whole time.”

Conversations varied around the parking lots, but one topic came up with a lot of people. Many fans, especially alumni who have been attending games for a long time, are unhappy about the University of Montana no longer being one of EWU’s protected rivals. While Campbell is disappointed to see Montana go, he is optimistic that Idaho will be able to develop into a quality rival. He just thinks it will take time.

“I’ll come see us play Idaho,” Campbell said. “I’ll enjoy watching us beat Idaho as much as I enjoy watching us beat Montana. But it’s disappointing because Montana has a 35 year history with us. It was a big thing while I was in college, and it still is now. It will take time with Idaho. As each team gets some wins and some losses, the teams will develop that rivalry and get entrenched in doing battle with each other.”

While the tailgate area was made up of mostly alumni, current students had their own area to get pumped up for the game. EWU’s new “Swoop Zone” opened at 11 a.m. The area was open to students only. Free food was provided, and attendees played games and took part in activities, including a rock climbing wall and trampoline. Sophomores Tori Copley and Brooke Graham enjoyed the atmosphere before the game.

“I like the free food,” Copley said. “This is my first game, and I’m having fun. Go Eags!”

“It’s super fun,” Graham said. “This is my second Eastern game. It’s fun to come out and get hyped up, win prizes, and eat free food.”

Of course, after the tailgate, a football game was played. EWU beat Montana State and fans left the game happy. And so concluded gameday… until next time. On Saturday, Nov. 4, EWU will be back at home taking on Weber State, and the whole experience will repeat itself.

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