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A Brief Tour of Tomorrow’s Tailgates to Look For

Maija Gustin and Mary Claire O'Donnell | Friday, September 16, 2011

Tomi has worked in Notre Dame’s Trademark Licensing Office for 11 years. Her husband grew up across the river from Notre Dame and has been a lifelong fan. His mother had season tickets since the 1960s and his family has come to games and tailgating ever since. His mother passed away, but they bring photographs of her to every tailgate so she can be there in spirit.

“My husband always has his pictures of his mom. She’s passed away, so we always make sure she’s here and his uncle and his mom’s friends that kind of originated the tailgate back in the ‘60s,” Tomi said.

Now, it is both a family affair as well as business, as Tomi invites people from the office over before games.


Tony grew up in LaPorte and has been an Irish fan since childhood. His parents had season tickets and he began coming to games regularly when his brother joined a law firm in town in the mid-‘90s. Tony comes to every home game and hosts a tailgate with friends and family for each one.

As a kid, Tony’s family had a rule that you couldn’t go to a football game until you were in middle school. He has since continued that tradition with his own children, much to their disappointment.

Tony likes building and continuing traditions. Another tradition at this tailgate — once every year, usually in November, Tony and his family and friends bring out a few deep fryers and deep-fry turkeys and other delicacies at their tailgate.


Dave, who grew up in LaPorte, has been a lifelong Irish fan. He went to his first football game when he was 13. Dave worked as a paperboy for the South Bend Tribune and received tickets as a tip. He has come to every home game for the last 10 years, tailgating at every one of them.

Dave had one of the most ambitious culinary menus at his tailgate. Despite the heat, he was busy cooking huge cuts of chuck roast to feed his friends and fellow football fans.


The Bachelor Bounty is one of the most elaborate tailgates Notre Dame has ever seen. Featuring its own custom-printed tent, flag, trophy and T-shirts, the Bachelor Bounty is now in its 12th year of existence.

Bounty-member Ben said a group of 23 graduates formed the Bachelor Bounty in 1999.

“[We] decided that we would pitch in about $100 each and the last person who got married would basically win the earnings,” Ben said.

The grads were seeded according to their “social status” at the time of graduation, which was based on their ability to talk to girls. Ironically, the higher-seeded contestants got married first.

The Bounty is now down to its final two contestants, Jed and Jim, both sixth-seeders. The Bachelor Bounty reunites at every home football opener. The original pot was invested in Cisco stock and is now worth about $7,500.


For almost 30 years now, Dennis McFadden and his family have held their Notre Dame tailgate.  A South Bend native, Dennis has a long family tree full of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s graduates, all of which are written up on their tailgating tent in black marker.  The graduation years are not filled in until the family member has gotten his or her diploma, though Dennis has faith that his nephew, currently a sophomore, will graduate and be able to fill in his 2014. 

Even Dennis’s son Colin, a freshman at Indiana University, makes it back for most home games to fulfill the family tradition. 

Each time the McFadden family converges on Notre Dame, Dennis makes sure to pay tribute to his father, the first Domer in their family, by visiting his grave with his sons and flying a Marine Corps flag.  Due to family and work connections, the McFaddens also get special appearances from the Kilt Band, as well as the cheerleaders, which they really enjoy.

The Hallsworth family of South Bend has tailgated at almost every home game for 30 years.  Uncle Kevin started the tradition, bringing out friends and family members for all the games — except the cold ones.  His nephew Jordan has taken the reins for the past 10 years, bringing out his family and keeping the tradition alive. 

Although some alumni couldn’t make it out for this game, Jordan wasn’t worried. “They’re at home doing other things,” he said. “But [this tailgating spot], it’s a great spot every time.  Friends, family — they always know where to find us.”