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The art of tailgating

Katie Palmitier | Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Surrounded by big screen TV’s, La-Z-Boys and state of the art grills you would think I was walking through Sears. But I’m not. I am standing in the middle of the Joyce Center parking lot on a football Saturday. Custom painted vans and Coach buses line the aisles as well. What’s not to love? Sitting down in an air conditioned bus with my best friends, listening to the Fight Song and enjoying some delicious fried chicken made fresh in Chicago this morning, I began to think I would love to host my very own tailgate with my family and friends. A Palmitier Family Tailgate, if you will.

I continued to fantasize about the amazing tailgate soiree I could throw, but knowing in the back of my mind it would be next to impossible to obtain a game day parking pass, it was a pretty safe fantasy. Then I received THE phone call. My mom called me to say that the family indeed received a parking pass to tailgate for the Purdue game. I could hear the excitement in her voice when she told me I was to be in charge of getting everything ready, with great food and perfect presentation. From the beautiful state of South Dakota it is next to impossible to transport a grill, buffalo burgers, and rotisserie pheasant by plane, and so is toothpaste, shampoo and Evian, but that’s another column. I’ve attended many a tailgate in my day, but being a “first generation Domer” and new to the Notre Dame tailgating scene as of last year, I have never had the opportunity to host. Being in the hostess hot seat now, I do not even know where to start. Creating the perfect Irish smorgasbord is a difficult task to undertake, and after what I experienced while tailgating these past two home game weekends, my fantasy began to turn into a nightmare.

Not only did I see the big screen TVs, I also had the luxury of dining in an air-conditioned bus, complete with kitchen and toilet. I feasted on bakery fresh cookies, rotisserie hot chicken, and warm, homemade Polish sausage sandwiches, fresh from the Chicago South Side. White tents tower over Escalades and hundreds of custom made flags fly high overhead. Come next Saturday, none of the above will be featured at my tailgate. My family is not from Chicago and I will be doing my gourmet shopping at Meijer; I hope they are not out of Easy Cheese. I will be featuring a homemade Bags set, custom painted by yours truly, and perhaps a bumpin’ Game Day mix blasting from the rent-a-car stereo.

Friends are on my mind, too. Will they even come? With all the other options available that Saturday, what will lure them to mine?

However, when it comes down to it, it is not the impressive food or the elaborate electronics that matter. Being surrounded by friends and family is what is important, together sharing in the Irish spirit and tradition. It is your true friends that will stand beside you regardless of what your tailgate features. I have also decided not to have envy towards those with cooler tailgates than my own. We are all just trying to have a good time, which is evident when walking up and down the aisles of the parking lot, hearing the sound of the band playing in the background, seeing good friends reuniting and listening to chants of “Snaggletooth” as an alum relives his glory days cracking open a beer with his own teeth. Tailgating is a time when memories are made and traditions are continued, both of which are sure to be passed down to our “Little Domers” countless times in the future.

Next Saturday I get to experience this with my own family and friends. We will start a new tradition, and I will be able to share what I love the most – football Saturdays at Notre Dame – with the ones I love the most. The football season at Notre Dame is almost like the Christmas season, a time for family and friends to come together and share in tradition. Where on Christmas it is not the presents that matter, rather celebrating the birth of Jesus, on football Saturdays it’s not the tailgating ambience that matters, it’s coming together to support the Irish.

So this next Saturday, if you do not already have an invitation to an extravagant tailgate featuring caviar and champagne, or awesome food from Chicago, feel free to stop by mine.