Bison Tailgating: An Experience Unlike Any Other
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 15:10
Tailgating. America’s past time. Or was that baseball?
Oh well, either way, tailgating has grabbed the hearts of many diehard football fanatics. It’s the perfect excuse for a group of friends and family alike to all gather hours before the game and shove their freshly cooked food into their face.
I’ve always been under the impression that tailgating was especially great for fans of southern teams, but brutal for the fans of northern teams. A quick look at a geographic weather map should explain my reasoning, but apparently that gets thrown out the window here in Fargo.
In Fargo, Bison football and tailgating go hand-in-hand like Brock Jensen and fourth quarter game-winning drives. (With all due apologies to Southern Illinois, Georgia Southern, Northern Iowa and Kansas State.)
Bison fans are passionate about two things. Winning and tailgating.
I had the opportunity to go out onto the street and jump into the tailgating experience and talk with the Bison faithful.
“Any Bison football day is a good day,” was a response from one tailgater. Even with the snow and the frigid temperatures.
Only in North Dakota people, only in North Dakota.
I didn’t really fully understand how important tailgating was until I got out and talked to fans. They take it very seriously, and for a lot of people, it has become an important part of their lives.
I chatted with a group of four families that drives 350 miles into Fargo the night before every game. Rain, snow or shine or in some cases a blowout looming on the horizon of the flat North Dakota plains (See St. Francis in ’11, Prairie View A&M in ’12 or Delaware State this year).
I asked them, why do you travel so far for one game a week? Surprisingly my question practically was the answer.
“Because it is only one game a week. It’s one day a week where us four families all get onto the bus, drive into Fargo and have a great day just visiting with each other, enjoying each other’s company. All while eating great food and then gearing up for a Bison win.”
Touché sir. My biggest question was how do these fans stay outside in the freezing cold, for sometimes up to five hours at a time?
Being from Minnesota, I know cold. But I’ve realized there is a difference between Minnesota’s cold and North Dakota’s cold.
This past Saturday it was 38 and gusty. In other words, it was summer time in Fargo. I can’t make this up, I had multiple people look me straight in the eye, and tell me that was perfect weather.
One guy even went as far as to say, “This feels like summer. I take it you’re not from Fargo.”
No sir, I am not. I half expected him to break out a box of fireworks and sparklers at any moment.
There were two words of the day that I heard more than any other. The first was comradery. I heard that word 17 times at 25 different campsites. Bison faithful truly make tailgating a family experience. Shared with their best and hungriest friends.
After talking to so many passionate fans, I really started to appreciate not only the tailgating experience, but also the notion this is engraved in a lot of lives, families and more importantly, cultures.
For many, this is a way of living. Being together with their best friends, family, eating good, hot, food and just basking in the North Dakota snow—err sun—is genuinely a lifestyle.
The second word of the day was brats. Being a self-proclaimed food lover and grill expert (And when I say self-proclaimed, it’s really only me who believes the grill expert, but I digress), I love to hear what everyone else is enjoying on his or her grill.
Fun statistic of the day: 70 percent of camps stated that some variation of brats were their favorite food of the day, and one guy even told me he’d eat brats every day for the rest of his life.
To each his own, I guess?
The most interesting grilled item I found in my tailgating excursion was probably bacon-wrapped pheasant, walleye or venison. In a world where pigs and cows reign supreme on the grill, it was great to see a bird, fish and deer make the jump into that hallowed category of grilled animals.
“Frisco or bust” was also a common theme of the day. I’d rather not delve into the talk of Frisco as I’m not one to voluntarily accept being a scapegoat, if plans fall through, but I’ll say this: NDSU would be well-represented in Texas should they make the trip for the third year in a row.
If all these Bison-faithful would make the 17-hour drive down to Frisco, I had to ask... would they be willing to travel to Tuscaloosa for a dynasty showdown in January?
“Bring on Alabama and that Nick Saban,” was among some of the most popular responses.
I checked the average temperature in Tuscaloosa during the month of January. Its 43 degrees. Just like the summer time in Fargo (this past August not withstanding).
I couldn’t help but smile at the idea of seeing the thousands of NDSU fans decked in green and yellow, all camped together talking about the 30 inches of snow they got the night before, playing bag toss or catch, grilling their brats in Alabama.
That is NDSU tailgating at its core, folks.