Old Tailgate was known for garish costumes and beer showers, but New Tailgating’s debut Saturday took a more traditional southern route.
Ten student groups set up tents on the Main Quadrangle Saturday afternoon before Duke Football’s 54-17 victory against North Carolina Central University. Students barbecued, threw frisbees, played corn hole and drank beer together while a student DJ provided music.
Perhaps out of nostalgia for Tailgate, which was canceled in November 2010, several people continued the tradition of dressing in costumes. Outfits included purple footie pajamas with ducks, stretchy gold pants, caution tape clothing, a cow suit and multiple dinosaurs getups.
But the majority of tailgaters showed up in Duke gear and other athletic wear for a mellow Saturday afternoon under blue skies and barbecue smoke. Kevin Nguyen, Trinity ’12, a recent graduate who returned to campus for tailgating, said he found “the best of both worlds” in this mix of new and old Tailgate.
“There’s people just hanging out, people socializing, reconnecting with old friends—some that just graduated,” he said. “You can’t not come to this, just because it’s right here. It’s good for the campus because it almost forces people to just interact and have fun together and be involved.”
Several students interviewed complained that the event was too spread across the campus. Unlike Tailgate, where attendees crammed into the Blue Zone parking lot, tailgating groups were widely dispersed across West Campus, extending all the way into Krzyzewskiville, where alumni and nonstudents spent time before the game. Student groups also set up gatherings in their own dorm sections.
Duke Student Government President Alex Swain, a senior, said attendance was great for the first New Tailgating event, with 10 registered student groups. Most tents had a steady crowd enjoying free food and beer, along with visits from groups of unaffiliated students who stopped by before the game. Freshmen made up a significant portion of the attendees.
“After hearing stories about the old Tailgate, this doesn’t live up to the legacy, but it’s still fun and there’s free food,” said freshman Tom Vosburgh. “I’ve seen people from every single class here.”
Senior Ben Huang noted that the event suffered from more limited access for student groups.
“One of the best things about the old Tailgate was that it didn’t matter what group you were a part of or who you went there with,” Huang said. “By limiting the number of groups on the Main Quad, you limit how much the student population can intermix.”
Junior Neil Kondamuri, DSG vice president for social culture, said that there were more openings available for groups on the main quad.
Alcohol policies, similar to those of Last Day of Classes, mandated six beers per person and banned glass containers and common distribution such as kegs. Kondamuri noted that DSG has not met yet to discuss ways to refine the event before the next home game, adding that no major problems arose.
“Any group that was getting too excited was told about it. We expect that a little bit,” he said.
Several upperclassmen, like senior Michelle Lamani, found the new format of tailgating a refreshing break from the pre-game festivities of years past.
“It’s nice to interact with other people and have them not be drunk,” she said. “Now people are more likely to think about the football game and support the team.”
After student groups deconstructed their tents, New Tailgating seemed to contribute more to football attendance than tailgates past.
When Tailgating wound down at 6 p.m., many tailgaters and visitors shifted toward the Wallace Wade Stadium.
“Are they more excited for the game? I don’t know,” Huang said. “But are people more likely to go to the game? Absolutely.”