LSU pregame party, food extend to opponents’ fans
Saturdays at Tiger Stadium are famous both for the game that goes on inside and for the party outside.
“We may lose the game,” Tigerholic Tailgater John Hampton said. “But we’ve never lost a tailgate.”
Acres upon acres around the stadium and campus turn into a sea of purple and gold, dotted with flags, RVs, converted vans, pickup trucks and even a tiger-striped hearse or two.
LSU becomes a cooking, drinking and eating paradise, hosting gallons of gumbo, vats of jambalaya and, of course, whatever the other team’s mascot is, cooked a thousand different ways — Dumbo gumbo, War Eagle étouffée, cochon de lait for Arkansas and grilled alligator for Florida.
And it’s not just when Tiger tailgaters are at home in Baton Rouge. They travel, too.
“We tailgated 100 yards from Tennessee (the stadium) last year. We were the only LSU tailgate in their A Lot,” Hampton said.
He said his party has grown over the years to include fans of opposing teams, who likewise invite him to take their spots when LSU travels. “We’ve met a lot of people from the various teams, and on the away games, we’ll go to their place.”
Hampton says his crew sees tailgating as working as ambassadors for LSU, and they pride themselves on their welcome for other teams.
“We try to leave them with a good taste of Louisiana,” he said, noting that his game-day apron sports patches from every team’s tailgate he’s cooked at.
One year, he said, a busload of Virginia Tech fans unloaded right in front of his oak-shaded tailgate spot on Nicholson Extension.
Of course, he fed them and made them welcome. When the Hokie fans went home, he said, they sent news clippings recounting their warm reception in Baton Rouge.
“We actually look for opposing teams as they pass through and invite them over,” he said. “We’ve met a lot of good people that way.”
Jennifer Platt was one of many University of Washington fans enjoying Hampton’s hospitality and his pastalaya on Sept. 8. She said as their group of Huskies made its way through the crowds, most of the tailgate parties asked them to stop and share some food or drink.
“This is awesome,” she said of her first trip to Baton Rouge. “We can take this off our bucket list.”
Malcolm Spell and his Tigeritaville tailgate sets up next to Hampton. Each game, he fries up a minimum of 30 pounds of catfish filets.
Hampton and others proclaimed Spell’s filets as perfect — and if they weren’t, they were definitely close. Marinated in mustard, then coated in a mixture of several popular fish fry blends, Spell’s fish were perfectly crunchy on the outside and smooth and flaky on the inside.
“There’s no secret to it,” he said, dumping handfuls of filets into his fryer’s basket, occasionally with the help of grandson Cameron Douglas, 2. “You just have to pay attention.”
John Guillory’s Tiger Stadium tailgate is steeped in tradition. His season tickets have been passed down three generations, and he says his children will make the fourth. His grandparents originally sat there, then his mom and dad. Guillory himself started going to games as a Boy Scout usher in the 1970s, then picked up his own season tickets in 1990. He hasn’t missed a game since.
“That’s what you do,” he said. “Graduate and get your season tickets.”
Their group of about 16 work out of an old Cintas delivery van that’s painted purple and gold and outfitted with a counter and a bathroom. And, of course, they end up feeding a lot more than 16. “We’ve got a lot of people that just start stopping by and now they stop by every game,” he said.
Not everyone makes it to Tiger Stadium. But that doesn’t stop them from tailgating. Josh Clark, an electrician in Watson, says he cooks every game and that he, too, has his traditions.
“We call it lucky dogs,” he said. “It’s just a regular chili dog. My buddy and I, the hotter they are, the luckier we felt during the game.”
Considering Clark’s secured ghost peppers, often touted as the hottest peppers on earth, LSU might hit the jackpot this year. He’s also taking cooking the other team’s mascot to a new level.
“I have three pigs in the backyard. We’re going to roast one of them for the Arkansas game,” he said. “One of ’em’s going down.”