Thanksgiving is near and that means turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing is on the menu. However, the smell of burgers on the grill is expected to drift over the University of Alabama on Saturday. The Crimson Tide will be playing arch rival Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl. For Alabama, the outcome will determine their shot at the SEC title and possible another national championship. For Bama fans, it’s their last chance at tailgating during the regular season.
You can tell when the Tide are playing a home game when you hear ticket scalpers calling out their wares along the outskirts of the quad in the center of UA’s campus. Most people though are prepared far in advance for a game. People like Gray Westbrook, who takes tailgating very seriously. His set up is more than just a mere picnic; he has three tents, including one just for the satellite television. Even this seems tame when compared to what Kevin Crawford has put together. In his section of the quad he has erected a graveyard with stones showing the names of opponents Alabama has beaten this year. He says around two hundred people stop to take pictures in his display every home game; but it is all in good fun and he says all of the tailgaters have become a big family.
“We’re all friends, I know everyone around me, they all know me. The Ole Miss football game I happened to make it on ESPN when they came in from a commercial and as soon as it showed my setup and me talking, everyone started cheering because we all know each other, we’ve been here so long.”
It is because of people like Crawford and Westbrook that the University of Alabama was named the third best tailgating school in the south by Southern Living.
By now you’re probably getting the impression there are a whole lot of people out eating and having a good time, Gina Johnson says you’d be right. She is with Game Day Operation on the Tuscaloosa campus.
“For big games like LSU, Texas A&M for example, we estimate that there were thirty thousand people on the quad AFTER the game had started. We’re talking forty thousand to fifty thousand people who may be outside the stadium somewhere on campus or in town tailgating.”
With the Crimson Tide hosting arch rival Auburn this weekend in the Iron Bowl, expect to see Bama and Auburn fans descend on Tuscaloosa in full force.