NETTLETON/HAMILTON – With tailgating outside stadiums banned and seat capacity limited, many football fans are having to change their normal game day traditions.
Ole Miss fan Jeff Neal and his family are usually season ticket holders, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, they decided to do things differently.
“We usually get season tickets and we go over and tailgate,” Neal said. “It’s always been something I’ve done with my kids and a couple of more family members. But with the pandemic going on this year, we decided to push the tickets back to next season and do more tailgating here at the house and just have more family time.”
In August, Gov. Tate Reeves signed an executive order limiting seating in college football stadiums to 25 percent, to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
So instead of traditional tailgating activities taking place at The Grove in Oxford or The Junction in Starkville, some fans are bringing the Saturday celebrations to the backyard of their homes.
Neal said he believes limited tailgating outside of stadiums should be allowed during the season.
“I think you should allow a few people,” Neal said. “If you’re going to allow them in the stadium, let them tailgate.
“It’s just a part of the college football experience.”
During the pandemic, Neal said he was able to build a tailgate setup on his patio with a TV, grill and bar area.
“I worked on it for just a couple hours a day and it took me about two weeks,” Neal said.
For years, Monroe County MSU Alumni Vice President Chris Eaves has taken his tailgate trailer and parked it outside of Davis Wade Stadium on Saturdays.
But this season, he said he and his family are going to enjoy continuing the tradition at home.
Eaves said he and his family would gather their trailer, decked out with MSU memorabilia and TVs, and tailgate outside of the stadium from sun up to sundown.
“We would bring our trailer over there to the stadium and we would usually have three or four tents set up and we would have a lot of people show up,” Eaves said. “Everybody is family, the way we look at it; we know no strangers.
“A lot of the visiting teams would walk by our trailer and they stop and watch the game,” Eaves added. After the game, they all come by and we just sit and watch other football games all night.”
Fans like Jamie Morgan, who is the Monroe County MSU Alumni president, believe the home tailgating experience is a way to decrease exposure to the coronavirus.
“We are trying to enjoy it by bringing the tailgating experience home while limiting our exposure,” Morgan said. “With so many people going so many places, you never know what you might be exposed to.
“Flu and strep are floating around, and most of us have loved ones that we don’t want to inadvertently expose or we work in situations with the public that put us around people we don’t want to expose,” Morgan added.