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Archive for Sunday, September 4, 2005

Early birds rule the roost

Jayhawk football fans have tailgating intricacies down to a science

September 4, 2005

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At 9 a.m., more than nine hours before kickoff, most Lawrence residents probably were just getting out of bed or drinking their morning coffee.

Not so some die-hard Kansas University football fans, who already were tailgating outside of Memorial Stadium.

David Shannon and his contingent of friends were the first to arrive, showing up before even the parking attendants.

"We pulled in about 8 a.m.," Shannon said. "We were the first ones here. We try and be the first ones here every week, so we can get the same spot."

This is Shannon's fifth year tailgating with his group, which includes one friend who is a local DJ and plays music for the crowd. If that isn't enough, they set up a satellite dish and watch the other college football games on TV while they tailgate.

"We had some technical difficulties," said Jim Kimmel, Shannon's longtime friend and fellow tailgater. "The dish is not working right now, but we are hoping to get it up and running soon."

Across the grassy field, the Dunbar-Gwaltney group was busy setting up their tents. They have been tailgating in the same spot for over 10 years. They upgraded their equipment for this season, purchasing a new double-sized tent.

"We had three 10-foot tents in the past, but this year we bought a brand new one," Jack Dunbar said of his new 20-by-10-foot tent. "We still have one of the 10-foot ones, but we replaced the other two with this new one."

Mark Gwaltney, who said he expected over 40 people to join them for tailgating later in the afternoon, has eight season tickets for his family and never misses a game.

"We have been in the same spot for every game for the last 10 years," Gwaltney said.

The group also takes their tailgating show on the road for at least one game a year. Last year they traveled to Northwestern, and in 2003 they went to Wyoming. This year, they plan on going to Lubbock, Texas, or to Austin, Texas, to see the Jayhawks play.

Believe it or not, there is strategy when it comes to picking a tailgating spot. Certain spots are better than others, which is what causes tailgaters to arrive so early.

"We tried to pick a spot that didn't have a parking spot next to it, so we could use the extra room," said Colin Vanoverschelde, a KU senior from Overland Park. "They charge you 10 dollars a spot, so you have to find a spot like this one, where you can take advantage of the extra room."

Vanoverschelde set up his group in a spot that was near a sewer, making parking there impossible. They took advantage of the extra space by setting up chairs, a table, and even their $350 smoker, where their food already was cooking by 11 a.m.

"We are cooking five racks of ribs and some rib tips," said Vanoverschelde, who was the only one from his group saving the spot. "Most of my friends aren't up yet. My two roommates were here with me, but they ran to get a few things that we forgot."

If it wasn't obvious by the early arrival, Jayhawk fans are excited about the season. They feel that for the first time in years, they have a chance to do something special.

"I think they are under the radar," said Vic McNulty, a 1999 graduate of KU who has been tailgating with friend Brandon Saunders for every game since their graduation from KU. "The defense looks like its gonna be extremely solid."

Tailgaters also had their thoughts on the quarterback situation. Much has been made of the battle at the position, with junior Adam Barmann getting the nod over senior Brian Luke and freshman Kerry Meier. Fans alike said they would root for KU's quarterback no matter who it was.

"I think you have to start out with somebody proven, like Barmann," Saunders said. "He has experience, so give him a chance. If it doesn't work out, then they can go to Meier."

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