Charles Purcell is under contract to say the University of Georgia will pull out a win over its stately neighbor Saturday when the Bulldogs and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks battle for points on the football field.
A junior at UGA, Purcell would root for his team even if he didn’t dress as one of two official Hairy Dog mascots for the school.
“You’re a six-foot-five dog,” Purcell said Friday night at the 18th annual Border Bash. “You can’t be afraid of embarrasing yourself.”
More than 10,000 fans from schools on both sides of the river showed up for the rally, making careful wardrobe choices. Strangers could quickly become enemies strictly because of red or garnet colored clothes.
Although born and raised in North Augusta, Michael Myers was indoctrinated since birth as a Georgia fan by his aunt. Myers stood next to his friend Jamie Ussery who proudly displayed his USC tattoo.
“Two teams coming together. It’s fun and Border Bash is good for the SEC,” Myers said.
Families arrived early in the afternoon to prep themselves for gameday, but large crowds came through the gates at the old train depot at Sixth and Reynolds Street by sunset. Prior to a concert by band Sister Hazel, cheerleaders from both teams took the stage to show the other side which fans can scream louder.
For Purcell, helping the UGA cheerleaders wake up fans was a calling he started practicing as a student at Aquinas High School in Augusta. Sporting events from his high school days taught him a few things about crowd interaction as the face of UGA athletics.
“I was always up in the stands just cheering,” he said.
Before arriving at the Border Bash, where his duo Parker Moore wore the mascot suit, Purcell visited the Georgia Health Sciences University Children’s Medical Center in the Hairy Dog disguise.
“By far, that’s the most beneficial and best thing I’ve done as mascot of UGA,” he said.
Returning to his hometown to cheer up patients at the children hospital and then eager fans at the rally was a thrilling experience, Purcell said.
Fans like Travis Kelly attended Border Bash supporting the University of Georgia in his red and black. But to top it off, he brought along his bulldog Lulu.
“I was born and raised a Georgia Bulldog fan,” he said.
Co-workers Marisa Barnes and Jamie Kohler stood next to each other despite rooting for opposing teams. A love of Southeastern Conference football trumps individual loyalties to their teams, they said.
“Carolina’s gonna win,” said Kohler.
“Of course, Georgia’s gonna win,” Barnes responded with a scowling look on her face.
The two talked about the football game the entire work week and said they will do the same come Monday morning, no matter which team outlasts the other.
A variety of vendors offered an array of team sport inspired items, including cake stands and lingerie.
“I certainly didn’t come here to buy anything because all I see is Georgia stuff,” Ben Baynham said as he looked out at the sea of red before him.
Baynham, of Aiken, chose to come early to the festivities so he could enjoy the team spirit with his son.
The 19-month-old had already been recruited as a University of South Carolina fan.
Fans for the first time had the opportunity to pay by credit card for entry and were able to watch images from past games and people in the crowd on a large video board.
All of the proceeds from the annual event benefitted local children’s charities.
Throughout the past 17 years the event has raised more than $500,000 for children’s charities.