Originally created 09/17/00

Bulldog fans gear up with tailgate tradition



Tents and flags? Check.

Candelabra and flowers? Check.

TV, VCR and satellite dish? Check.

Eight-foot wooden bar that reads "Georgia Dawg Pound Crew?" Check.

And don't forget a security guard to watch over the setup overnight.

With the essentials out of the way, members of the Columbia County Bulldog Club were set to bring in University of Georgia's first football game of the season in true Dawg style.

Although it's called the Columbia County Bulldog Club, the organization includes people from across the state. When members of several tailgating groups kept bumping into each other at games, they decided in 1998 to combine their efforts and become one club.

The club's 100 members drive from all over Georgia to meet for the pre-game tailgating parties.

"Away-game people are the true fans," said Todd Blackmon, president of the club.

On weekdays, Mr. Blackmon is co-owner of CSRA Document Solutions, a Xerox sales agency. On weekends (at least for the next 12 to 14 weeks), he is 100 percent Dawg.

Mr. Blackmon went to the Athens, Ga., campus a week before the Bulldogs' season kickoff to scout out a new site for the game-day party. The university limited parking in the center of campus this year - kicking the club out of its usual spot. With a location selected, Mr. Blackmon went back to Athens the night before the game to set up.

He even hired an off-duty police officer to guard the area overnight. After all the gear was in place, the club's leader drove 45 minutes to Washington, Ga., where his parents live, to spend the night. Mr. Blackmon and his family were back at the tailgate spot early the next morning.

Like the thousands of other fans that invaded Athens for the Georgia-Georgia Southern game Sept. 2, the club members used tents, grills and coolers to stake a claim to their location. The week before, Mr. Blackmon sent out newsletters with directions to the new party spot.

About 7 a.m. game day, club members began arriving decked out in their finest red and black. Even cell phones were tagged with "super G's" to show Bulldog ownership.

Pete Kling of Marietta, Ga., used his phone to call his wife, a fellow club member, periodically through out the day. She was working and unable to attend the sacred Bulldog event, so he kept her updated as events progressed.

Spread out on several end-to-end 8-foot tables was a buffet that would have rivaled that of restaurants Harvest Table or Old Country Buffet.

For the first game, the menu included Boston butts and pork-shoulder roasts. All side dishes were provided potluck. School-colored candelabras and flower arrangements were set in the middle of it all.

Just after noon, six hours before game time, Mr. Blackmon began gathering the group together for the ritual "Calling of the Dawg."

With a bottle of Bud Light in hand and his UGA hat on backwards, he began with club announcements. Future games, tailgating events and menus were discussed before he let out the fight call.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to let the big dawg eat!" he yelled to the other faithful.

Suddenly, a song began and everyone joined in.

"There's nothing finer in the land, than a drunk, obnoxious Georgia fan," was the climatic verse before the traditional "Go Dawgs, Sic'em! Woof, Woof, Woof."

The group poured beverages over a pile of money on the ground to bring good luck and favor from the football gods.

Throughout the day, barking could be heard from every corner of the club's camp. Six or seven times, members called the Dawg and christened the pile of money with cold brew. The cold, wet money stayed untouched throughout the day so as not to jinx the team.

"You're not supposed to bother it," Ms. Hargrove said. "And it just stays there all day."

The tradition is observed before each game.

"Long live the Dawgs!" was shouted from a group of the most spirited club members at the Super G-shaped bar, where they toasted the Dawgs with red "dawg shots."

Mr. Blackmon takes his whole family to Georgia games, including his wife, Alison (they met as students at Georgia), and their son, 4-year-old Jake. On this Saturday, Jake wore a red football jersey that hung to his knees.

"We have one game where everybody brings their kids up," Mrs. Blackmon said. It's usually one of the less-popular games.

Club member Jennifer Hargrove, of Augusta, takes time out of her busy schedule as a teacher and student working on a doctorate degree to attend each game.

"My only time out is all the football games," Ms. Hargrove said. The Georgia grad enjoys the festive atmosphere that the small college town adopts during football season.

"It so much fun around here. Everybody's out and friendly," she said.

She attends the games with boyfriend Bill Rogers of Augusta.

He is an even more loyal fan, she said. "We cannot leave the game until everyone else is gone," she said.

Join the clubTo reach the Columbia County Bulldog Club, call Todd Blackmon at 724-1645. The annual fee is $15. Members receive a newsletter and attend annual meetings with Georgia coaches. While tickets to games are not part of membership, club members keep extra tickets within the club network.

Tailgating tips

The USA Rice Federation recommends the following tips to score with your tailgate party:

Plan a menu and begin prep work a day or two before the game. Keep the menu simple.

Make a list of things to bring. Pack paper products, such as plates, napkins, etc., the night before.

Remember the first aid kit, trash bags, water and damp towels for cleanup.

Dress in team colors!

Plan to arrive three or four hours early and stay an hour or two after the game.

Find a good spot to park. Parking next to a grassy area or the end of the parking row gives you more room to spread out.

Fly a flag so friends can find you in the parking lot.

Decorate your tailgate site with football pennants and other team paraphernalia.

Before the game, get to know your tailgate neighbors.

If the weather is chilly, warm up by throwing a football around.

Serve your tailgate fare about an hour and a half before the game starts. This will give you plenty of time to eat, clean up and extinguish fires before the game.

Reach Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332.