Extreme tailgating: UTC fans pull out all the stops with all-day luau at game

Extreme tailgating: UTC fans pull out all the stops with all-day luau at game

September 25th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

A 20-ton truckload of sand and beach chairs set a luau theme for a tailgating party in the parking lot of Finley Stadium for UTC's game against Austin Peay. The gathering stretched across more than 15 parking spaces.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

PINEAPPLE SALSA

1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 can (15 ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup chopped onions

2 green chile peppers, chopped

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss together pineapple, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, corn, black beans, onions, green chili peppers, orange juice and cilantro. Season with cumin, salt and pepper. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until serving.

FRANK'S RED HOT BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup blue cheese or ranch salad dressing

1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce or Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese

2 cans (12.5 ounces each) Swanson White Premium Chunk Chicken Breast in Water, drained

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place cream cheese into deep baking dish. Stir until smooth. Mix in salad dressing, Frank's Red Hot Sauce and cheese. Stir in chicken. Bake 20 minutes or until mixture is heated through; stir. Garnish as desired. Serve with crackers or vegetables.

Tailgating has advanced well beyond the tailgate.

Indeed, a group of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga fans took it so far at a recent game that hardly a tailgate could be seen through the lighted palm tree, tents, portable potty, tiki torches and off-duty policeman watching over the all-day party.

"It was the first big event we've planned," says Donna Broyles, one of a core group of longtime friends who have tailgated together at every UTC home game for around five years.

The group's typical gathering draws between 35 and 75 people, she says. The luau-themed party for the team's recent game against Austin Peay State University attracted -- with drop-bys -- around 250.

Doug Dyer, one of the members of the church softball team that spawned the friendships, was the instigator of the gathering, which stretched 15 to 20 parking spaces wide on a 6-inch-deep beach of sand. He says luau parties at his Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at UTC and a Jimmy Buffet concert he attended provided the inspiration.

"It was a lot of work, a lot of time in the planning," he says. "We may do it again next year. The challenge is to do better than the first year. Maybe we'll add a waterfall."

Planning for this year's event took the better part of a year.

"You could not talk to [Dyer] for nine months without him mentioning it," Broyles says.

The execution began the afternoon before the Sept. 14 game when a 20-ton truckload of sand arrived at the parking lot north of Finley Stadium. The core group of husbands met the truck, spread around the sand, then returned the next day at 9 a.m. to set up tents, tables and other equipment.

"The sand really kind of made it," says Dyer. "It put everybody in a luau-festival atmosphere."

The core group of wives arrived at 10:30 a.m. on game day with the food, decorations and party favors, Broyles says.

The party officially began at noon, continued until the 6 p.m. game and picked up when the game -- a 42-10 victory for the Mocs -- ended. The last truck of supplies was loaded up around midnight.

"It was perfect," Broyles says. "It was an all-day affair. It was a lot of fun."

Doughnuts decorated as flip flops and cookies frosted with luau themes were among the snacks on hand at the tailgating party.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

The food was coordinated by Dyer's wife, Alison, who does that job for every tailgate party. Families brought their choice of meat for grillmasters Chuck Daniels and Tyson Elliott to prepare on the Traeger Wood Pellet Grill, and also fixed additional dishes to share.

The spread at the luau included Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish Grill, Buffalo chicken dip, pinwheel appetizers, a fruit-filled pineapple and watermelon, a fruit salad-filled melon, pineapple salsa, macadamia cookies and doughnuts frosted with UTC's "power C" logo.

"We don't just stand there and eat chips," says Broyles. "It's mostly snacks. We all just share it."

The hit of the day may have been the frozen daiquiris and margaritas turned out in individual machines by Mark Harvey, she says. Dyer prepared the pineapple mojitos, appropriately called Moc-itos for the event.

The off-duty policeman hired for the party made sure there was no trouble, Broyles says, and the portable potty kept people from running back and forth into the stadium.

After the game, Broyles says, all the UTC coaches -- receivers coach Will Healy is her son-in-law -- joined the party.

The group didn't even have to clean up the sand. It was donated to the stadium, where it has been reused on the field.

The party was recognized by Southern Charm Clothing, which presents a tailgating award at every UTC home game, and by a representative of the National Collegiate Tailgating Championship, who apparently came to check out tailgating in the First Tennessee Pavilion and wound up posting photos of the luau on its Facebook page and declaring that nothing at the University of Michigan, Auburn University, UCLA or the University of Miami compared to it.

"It was pretty cool," Dyer says. "We had a blast. We just wanted to bring tailgating to another level."

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to my posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.