published Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Tailgating: A tradition at Chattanooga area high schools

  • photo
    At Baylor, tailgating has evolved from families bringing their own food to a catered buffet. Contributed photo by Dawn Jumper

POINTERS FOR FIRST TIMERS

• Get to the parking area early.

• Bring trash bags.

• Bring along entertainment for the kids, such as an iPod with speakers.

• If you tailgate out of the back of your truck, SUV or car, go through the car wash first.

Source: Baylor School parent Dawn Jumper

They play out like picnics but on a grander scale. They boast comforts of home, as if the kitchen and den were temporarily set up in a parking lot. The parties are a ritual of fall as football fans gather to cheer on their favorite high school or college teams.

At Soddy-Daisy High School, members of the Underwood family set up a tailgating camp at every home game to show support for Luke Underwood, a senior captain and varsity kicker.

"The (tailgating) spots are positioned around the parking lot overlooking the field, allowing family, friends and fans to eat and spend time together while watching the team warm up," said Luke's dad, Ben Underwood. ... "These kids, especially the seniors, have worked long and hard and given their all for their school and team, and we want to show our support."

The tailgaters bring tents for shade, portable tables for eating and lots of food and soft drinks. The typical fare includes fried chicken, Krystal hamburgers, watermelon and desserts, Underwood said.

At Baylor School, tailgating has been a Friday night custom since the 1990s, said Barbara Kennedy, director of external affairs.

The event has evolved over the years from each family bringing its own food to a grilled buffet provided by Sodexo, which Baylor contracts for its dining services.

"The meal costs $6.50 and includes hamburgers, veggie burgers, chicken breasts, hot dogs, slaw, chips, baked beans and cookies," Kennedy said. "If we have home games later in the season, when the weather is cooler, we will add chili and barbecue."

On average, nearly 400 people participate, she said.

Though the school provides an eating area, some tailgaters bring their own tables, chairs, tents and a buffet of potluck dishes, said Dawn Jumper, whose sons Colton and Will are on the team.

"We can always count on plenty of barbecue, dips, fried chicken and brownies," she said. "I travel light compared to some. I bring one plastic folding table, tablecloth, a basket with plastic utensils and napkins, plus pompoms to decorate the table. Of course, I bring a cooler with a few drinks and my potluck dishes."

Jumper said some Baylor parents go all out, including one who brings a trailer, satellite dish and big-screen TV. Another family brings along a portable fire pit when the weather gets cold.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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