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Tailgating Done Right
Tailgating —that uniquely American, uniquely football experience that involves the combination of an open vehicle, good food and drink and a crowd of enthusiastic football fans. Long a tradition in big football schools, this experience may be a new one to UConn fans as the Huskies step up to Division I-A.
Tailgating is about making a full-day event of a football game. Tailgating veterans say the serious participants arrive at 9:00 a.m. for the good spots and leave at 6:00 p.m after the fun dies down. “For me football’s the whole picture: tailgating with good friends and good food; being outside in a crisp fall environment; dressing in UConn colors and rooting for your team,” says 35-year veteran Husky football fan, Gay Lustig of Glastonbury. “There’s something about those bright blue skies and crispy days that just says football. Even bundling up against the cold feels like football to me.”
“Tailgating is part of the whole tradition of football,” says UConn football coach, Randy Edsall, “From my position as coach, I have to say that tailgating really pumps up the team. Players see that display of team spirit and it’s an adrenalin shot for them. It can also be intimidating for the visitors.”
So here, for the benefit of veterans and newcomers alike, is a primer on Tailgating Done Right.
The Proper Vehicle – The best vehicle is one that can open up in the back. Whichever vehicle you choose, “experts” say it has to have a tailgating area large enough to hold a folding banquet table and four chairs. Early tailgaters used station wagons. In fact, there’s quite a market for these old station wagons among true devotees. Now, you see more vans and SUVs. For the more dedicated tailgaters, there are Winnebagos, mobile homes or pickups with camping caps. For the real hardcore aficionados, there are school buses or commercial buses with luxury options. People who tailgate at the major college football schools may go out and purchase a vehicle especially to tailgate. “I heard about one Iowa State fan who bought a city bus and fitted it with $300,000 worth of improvements simply to drive from Cedar Rapids to Ames for the Iowa State games. It included sleeping rooms and a bar,” says veteran tailgater Sheldon Baker of Old Lyme, whose dining credits include a five-year stint as PM Magazine’s “Phantom Diner.” His expertise in tailgating includes extensive personal study at the annual Yale/Harvard game, as well as games at Nebraska and other major football schools.
The Right Utensils and Trappings – Starting with the practical, you have to have something that keeps the back of car clean, like a large tarp or Husky blanket. Naturally, it, like all the other decorations, must be Husky blue and white colors. You’ll also need two large golf umbrellas (preferably blue and white), Frisbees, hibachi or other grills (charcoal or gas), blankets and a battery-powered radio and portable TV for following the pre and post game festivities. After years of tailgating experience, Mr. Baker says the one must have thing that any veteran takes to a tailgating party is rubber boots. “These cover anything that happens,” he says with a chuckle.
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Directions to Rentschler Field
From the North: Take I-91 South to Hartford to I-84 EAST (Exit 32 – Left Exit). Follow I-84 East to Exit 58, ROBERTS STREET/SILVER LANE. On the Exit Ramp, keep to the right and continue straight through Silver Lane into the RENTSCHLER FIELD MAIN GATE.
From the South: Take I-91 North toward Hartford to Route 15 North/to I-84 East/Charter Oak Bridge (Exit 29). Merge left onto Route 15. After the bridge, take Exit 91 SILVER LANE. Turn right at end of ramp onto Silver Lane. Follow Silver Lane toward the RENTSCHLER FIELD MAIN GATE. For General Parking, stay in the right lane and turn right into the RENTSCHLER FIELD MAIN GATE. For Reserved Parking, merge into the left lane and continue straight on Silver Lane to the RENTSCHLER FIELD EAST GATE.
From the West: Take I-84 East toward HARTFORD. Follow I-84 East to Exit 58, ROBERTS STREET/SILVER LANE. On the Exit Ramp, keep to the right and continue straight through Silver Lane into the RENTSCHLER FIELD MAIN GATE.
From the Southwest: Take either I-84 East or I-91 North. Follow directions above from the South (from I-91 North) or from the West (from I-84 East). From Route 15 North, follow to Exit 91 Silver Lane. See directions above from the South.
From the East (I-384): Take Route 6 West or Route 44 West to I-384 West. Follow I-384 West to Manchester. Take Exit 1 SPENCER STREET. Turn left at end of exit ramp onto Spencer Street. Follow Spencer Street onto Silver Lane in East Hartford. Follow Silver Lane to RENTSCHLER FIELD EAST GATE.
From the East (I-84): Take I-84 West toward HARTFORD to Exit 58, ROBERTS STREET/SILVER LANE. At the end of the Exit Ramp, turn left onto Roberts Street and follow to Silver Lane. Merge into one lane and continue straight through Silver Lane into the RENTSCHLER FIELD MAIN GATE.
From the Southeast (Route 2): Take Route 2 West toward HARTFORD. Proceed to Route I-84 East. Take Exit 58, ROBERTS STREET/SILVER LANE. At the end of the Exit Ramp, turn left onto Roberts Street and follow to Silver Lane. Merge into one lane and continue straight through Silver Lane into the RENTSCHLER FIELD MAIN GATE.
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