By Terry L. Jones
September 04, 2012
Luke Williamson and his friends started their LSU tailgating tradition 18 years ago in front of the campus’ Indian mounds with just a 12-pack of beer and a bag of Doritos.
A lot has changed since then.
The 41-year-old lawyer kicked off the 2012 LSU football season with his friends on Saturday with a little more variety.
Instead of just Doritos, Williamson’s group, consisting mostly of fellow lawyers, enjoyed hearty helpings of chicken pasta, jambalaya, chicken fingers, meat pies and spinach dip beneath the shade of their inflatable tent.
“We showed up at 8 a.m. to start setting everything up,” Williamson said Saturday afternoon. “Every year, we try to add something new. Last year, it was this tent. This year, we added a flagpole.”
And flapping in the wind atop that flagpole Saturday was a purple-and-gold flag bearing the group’s name — Usual Suspects — a play on its members’ profession, Williamson said.
“This is all about giving back to LSU football and getting to hang out with friends,” Williamson said.
These sentiments were shared by the thousands of LSU fans who set up tents and congregated outside of RVs to celebrate the university’s home opener against North Texas.
Tiger fans are being treated with eight home games this season.
LSU’s campus may have been soggy and littered with debris due to the stormy weather that raked Baton Rouge last week as Isaac crawled across Louisiana, first as a hurricane, then a downgraded tropical storm, and finally, a tropical depression.
Several of the university’s parking lots and tailgating hot spots were closed Saturday because they were too saturated by heavy rain, but Isaac’s setbacks didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of LSU fans.
Mary Monachello said it would take a lot more than rain and a hurricane to keep her and her husband, Steve, from securing their spot along LSU’s Parade Ground for tailgating festivities.
The couple, both LSU alums, has been tailgating at LSU since they moved back to Baton Rouge in 1997, she said.
“We’re fans, we’re going to be here. We just said we would cut back a little because of the storm,” Monachello said. “We usually have about 20 chairs out here and a bigger television. We’ll go full steam next week.”
The Monachellos’ menu included chicken drumsticks, pulled pork, sausage po-boys, roasted corn, cupcakes and watermelon.
Something Monachello said she wouldn’t leave behind was the wrought-iron chandelier she uses to decorate the couple’s tent.
Monachello calls the chandelier a “trash to treasure” find she outfitted with a purple-and-gold feather wreath and replaced the light bulbs with plastic footballs.
Around the corner from the Monachellos, the decorative feature of friends Malcolm Alexander and Frank Harmon’s tailgating tent was their 7-foot-tall Mike the Tiger inflatable.
The two men have been tailgating in the same spot along Dalrymple Drive for 19 years.
Alexander and Harmon, who said they’ve had the inflatable tiger for eight of those years, call it a “chick magnet.”
“More women, young and old, stop to take pictures with that tiger,” Alexander said. “We saw it at a store years ago and just bought it and been bringing it out here with us ever since.”
Harmon added, “I think we have the most-photographed tiger out here.”
Neither graduated from LSU, but the two men quipped they have an invested stake in the university because — between the two of them — they’ve paid for six children to attend LSU.
Saturday’s game marked the return of two more fan favorites: Tom and Nancy Hazlett’s standard poodles, RouxD and Ollie.
The Prarieville couple have been showing off their Tiger pride for the last decade by clipping out the words “LSU” and “Tigers” into the fluffy white coats of Ollie and RouxD, respectively.
“I do it myself,” Nancy Hazlett said. “People want to take pictures with them every year. One girl took her first photo of them when she was a freshmen. She’s a senior now. She tries to find them every year.”
Nearly everyone had high hopes for the 2012 season.
Alexander and Harmon both agreed the Tigers would be undefeated.
Williamson, on the other hand, said he believes LSU will conclude the season 11-1.
“I think we might lose to the Razorbacks this year,” he said. “We play at Arkansas. They tend to have the ability to beat us when we are in their house.”