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Tips, traditions and advice from Clemson insiders on the best ways to tailgate at a Tigers game this college football season. 

By Jeremy Woo
August 30, 2017

Planning on going to a game to see the defending national champions this year? Clemson senior Elizabeth Marks, who's also the President of Central Spirit, offers her expert tips and advice on how to make the most of your Clemson tailgate.

What’s the best way to get to the stadium and where should you park? There are a couple different techniques when it comes to getting to the stadium.  The best option would probably be buying a parking pass and driving in or riding in with someone who has one.  You can also utilize the free parking at Kite Hill and make the trek across our hilly campus or park downtown for between $20-$40 in support of the local church ministries. There are also buses coming in and out throughout the day, but there is typically a wait to get home after the game.

How early before kickoff should you get there? People typically arrive between four and six hours ahead of kickoff, depending on the time of kickoff.  Parking lots open at 6 AM for 12 and 1 PM kickoffs and 8 AM for all other kickoff times. There are some fans that are in their tailgating spot at 8 AM no matter whether kickoff is 12 PM or 8 PM.  Clemson tailgating is an event in and of itself, so it is important to not feel rushed to get into the stadium. Enjoy yourself and stay a while!

What should you bring? There are some definite essentials at any Clemson tailgate.  Food is very important; especially when you are responsible for feeding college students that consider tailgates their meals for the entire day.  Chick-Fil-A nugget trays and Bojangles boxes are a few favorites.  Make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, because it is likely to get hot in the early games of the season.  Corn hole boards, a tent to provide shade and define your space, and chairs are also great things to have.  Many people bring TVs and generators to watch other games before or after the Tigers play.  

What’s the tailgating culture like at Clemson? It reflects the feeling of a family reunion. There are tailgates all across campus everywhere you look, involving families with young children, college kids, Clemson alumni who haven’t missed a game in 50 years, and fans of the opposing teams.  Tailgating at Clemson is a family affair, perhaps not always in blood, but in Southern hospitality and friendship.

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How should you dress? Wearing orange is a crucial part to a game day in Death Valley. In Central Spirit, the premiere sports organization on Clemson’s campus, we often go “all in” by painting up in the front row of the student section or wearing orange overalls to wave the flags on the field.  I personally would recommend some orange overalls–you can get them dyed by Judge Keller’s in downtown Clemson. Fans also dress up in dresses and orange blouses for the women and button ups, polo shirts, khakis, and bowties for the men.  Of course, for the first few games, a tank top or t-shirt and shorts is sometimes your best option to keep cool!

What traditions set the school apart? Tiger Walk is the players’ entrance into the stadium to warm up, which takes place in the P-3 parking lot.  It happens two hours before kickoff as fans crowd around and high-five players as they walk in. Tiger Band plays a mini-concert, including Tiger Rag, in the outdoor amphitheater 90 minutes before kickoff.  During Homecoming, one of the Clemson traditions put on by Central Spirit, there are massive floats towering 30 feet tall on Bowman field to admire, take pictures with, and explore.

What are the best things to eat at a typical Clemson tailgate?  Our Southern location often determines the menu available at our tailgates.  There is likely to be lots of sweet tea and fried chicken (especially when we play our rival, whose mascot is a chicken).  Boiled peanuts are sold on the side of the road on the way into Clemson and often eaten at tailgates. South Carolina barbecue is also a typical delicacy, especially if it’s from the Smokin’ Pig in Pendleton – even if it’s not at your tailgate, you should stop by and grab a bite.  It’s worth the wait!

What’s the number one reason for college football fans to make tailgating at Clemson a bucket-list item? I’ve tailgated other places, and all schools have a different feel and approach when it comes to tailgating.  The atmosphere of Clemson tailgating is so unique. The hospitality is unlike any other school, and you will feel welcomed and at home from the moment you step onto our campus, even if you happen to be wearing colors other than orange.  You will see Clemson fans decked out in orange of all ages and an evident feeling of family, also seen in our game atmosphere.  The love of Clemson football brings tailgaters together.

Anything else to know? Make sure you have plenty of time to see campus, eat, and find your seat before the Tigers run down the hill.  You wouldn’t want to miss “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football” or miss out on seeing our beautiful campus!  Smoking is prohibited on Clemson’s campus, except in a select few locations, to allow for a welcoming environment for all.  Also, Clemson upholds a clear-bag policy, meaning all bags must be clear if they are larger than a small purse or clutch.  They will not let fans in with anything larger than a small purse if it is not clear, so I would recommend purchasing a clear bag, which are available in most stores downtown as well as places like Walmart and Academy.

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