BATON ROUGE — Just behind the LSU baseball stadium sits a line of RV’s waiting for the clock to strike 6 p.m., so that the running of vehicles can begin. The line was at least ten deep, as I strolled up to a group called the ‘Krewe Of Misfits’, patiently waiting to find their parking spot for the upcoming Tennessee game on Saturday.
The party starts early, as I asked one member, who was sitting in his chair outside of his motorhome, waiting five more hours before entry began. I had to know what was in store for the weekend, which one member pointed out that it actually starts Thursday night.
‘We’ll have tents spaced out over 100 feet. All you can drink and eat, so make sure to come on bye to get some of our famous gumbo. I know I said 6 o’clock, but we made a deal with our guy to let us in a little earlier, so make sure to come on over.”
Southern Hospitality At Its Finest At LSU
This type of friendly tailgating is common in Baton Rouge, with most folks eager to showoff their cooking skills, while inviting fans from different teams over for a taste. Eager to know more, I asked the ‘Krewe’ if they’d seen any Tennessee fans so far today.
“Don’t they tailgate on the water? I mean they could try the lake over there behind us if they like”, one gentleman said, all in good fun.
As I strolled on down the row of RV’s, the smell of crawfish and gumbo started to remind me of home along the gulf coast in Mobile, Alabama. But the southern hospitality reminded me of why I enjoy visiting these college towns. Making my way out of the area, I asked one couple what they thought about the game on Saturday.
“Look, I know they’re (Tennessee) all giddy about it starting in the morning, but that don’t mean a damn thing,” said the gentleman who was already enjoying his Bud Light. “They can come down and enjoy our cookin’, but they’re leaving town with a loss. It’s that’s simple.”
Reggie and Fred’s
Before leaving campus for the afternoon, I had to stop by my cousin’s former work spot ‘Reggies’, which is connected to the famous bar ‘Freds’. I’d been here before, but its been a number of years, so I was shocked to see how much it had expanded. It’s hard to remember some of those freshman year road trips to Baton Rouge.
My colleague, Glenn Guilbeau, reminded me that he visited ‘Freds’ when he was a freshman in college, not to give away his age or anything. But, it has been around since the 70’s I was told.
Speaking with the Fred’s general manager Jason Nay, I was astonished at just how big the area was. It felt like I was walking into a circus tent. The cash registers lined the inner-part of the tent, while a massive stage was setup towards the back.
This is all outside the bar, which has expanded in previous years to include tents further down the property. The number of people Jason guessed that will walk into the bar over the next three days blew me away, including Tennessee fans, with over 7,000 expected to descend upon Baton Rouge this weekend.
Just as we were wrapping up our conversation, he mentioned that they would be opening at 8am for the 11am kickoff, which surprised me in a way. But then I heard LSU would start selling alcohol at 9am inside the stadium, so it all made sense.
“I’ve had people asking me how early we could actually get inside on Saturday, so we figured 8am would be the best time.”
The biggest contributor to the success of the bar this weekend is the early kickoff time. Not many folks would want to setup a tailgate and then tear it down after the game, especially for a morning game. So, a bar like ‘Fred’s is the perfect spot to get the day started.
Judging by the number of events they’ll be hosting this weekend, along with the twelve different musical acts that will take the stage, this town is preparing for a party that could go on into the early morning hours of Sunday.
It was also a pleasant surprise to meet someone that knew my cousin Bowdoin, who unfortunately passed away last Spring. I had the opportunity to hear a few stories about him from Jason, since Bowdoin worked at the bar ‘Reggies’ next door. A huge LSU fan and graduate of the school, my cousin rarely missed an opportunity to see his Tigers play or make a trip back to Baton Rouge.
Knowing how many smiles he brought out of others in the past, making the stop at Freds was well worth the time to explore the LSU tailgate scene.
Vol’s In The House
Making my way off-campus, I ran into a group of Tennessee fans who had their car decked out in flags and decals, as they stocked up on beer at the local gas station.
“We’re here for a party, but also a win,” Jeff from Memphis proclaimed to me. “These folks have no idea the amount of pain Josh Heupel and Hendon Hooker are about to put on this town. I almost feel sorry for them, but whatever. Go Vols!”
I think it’s safe to say that Tennessee fans are feeling good about their team’s chances on Saturday. Judging by the number of fans I’ve seen on social media making the trek to Louisiana, there will be a lot of orange inside Tiger Stadium on Saturday.
Get your dancing shoes on, the party is already underway in Death Valley.