The smell of barbecue and the sound of live music permeated the warm air Friday as fans of Georgia and South Carolina filled any vacant spot of grass to enjoy the 20th anniversary of Border Bash.
Though he had little interest in the annual meeting of the gridiron giants, Kelly Ayres claimed a spot on the Augusta Common with his three English Bulldogs. Georgia and South Carolina fans alike stopped as they passed to snap a quick photo.
“There’s a lot of Bulldog fans here, so I just like to bring my dogs out to get some attention,” Ayres said. “They love it.”
Robert and Sue Hardy were pacing the brick pathway around the Common, stopping at booths selling Border Bash memorabilia.
Robert Hardy, in Gamecock garb from head to toe, explained that he has only been a South Carolina fan for a little more than a year. The former Georgia Tech fan lost a bet to a family member during last year’s matchup between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks in Columbia.
“I made a bet with my brother-in-law that if Carolina beats Georgia, I’ll come over to the SEC and be a Carolina fan,” he said. “I’ve been a Gamecock fan ever since.”
Sue Hardy, in a black shirt and carrying a Georgia handbag, said their house displays both Georgia and South Carolina flags. She said she’s glad the two have an opportunity to celebrate both teams at the event.
“I just think it’s fun that both teams can come together and enjoy the day and the sport,” she said.
After a short set by the Joe Stevenson Band, patrons were led in chants by cheerleading squads from Georgia and South Carolina. Mascots Hairy Dawg and Cocky also made special appearances, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
When they weren’t cheering, the squads roamed the Common and posed for photos with fans, dodging small children running across the grass with footballs tucked under their arms.
But the event wasn’t all Georgia and South Carolina. Clemson, Tennessee and Florida fans showed their colors while they waited for their chance to see the evening’s performance by country rock band Blackberry Smoke.
Florida fan Anthony Misuraca couldn’t resist jawing with his Southeastern Conference rivals. With a stuffed Gator hat, a blue Florida jersey and temporary tattoos dotting his arms, he stood out in the crowd.
“I just like getting out there and antagonizing the Georgia and South Carolina fans,” he said. “You’d think that they would be more concerned with each other, but everyone tells me I’m crazy for dressing up like this.”
Event promoter Joe Stevenson said the event was expected to attract more than 8,000 people.