I went to my first Bronco football game on September 21, 1968. It was a Friday night game and I walked over from my dorm room at Chaffee Hall. The first time I ever heard of tailgating was a few weeks later when Boise College played Idaho State University in the homecoming game. I noticed a few motorhomes in the stadium parking lot and asked a buddy what they were doing. His reply was "That is what the old people do before the game; they picnic in the parking lot"! I thought it was really strange at the time.
I lived at the University Inn (Married Student Housing) at the base of Protest Hill in 1974. We were about five blocks from the stadium and we "tailgated" on the grassy area in front of the complex. We barbequed hot dogs and burgers and drank many beers. There were about two dozen Bronco fans in our group. Four of us would head over to the Stadium early to save seats for the rest of us. Those were the days of bota bags. So the party would continue in the stands. As we walked through the parking lot, we saw more of those "old people" grilling burgers and drinking in the parking lot.
I first started tailgating in the stadium parking lot in the early 80's with Mr. C. Mr. C. had an RV and an RV spot in the parking lot just below the little white church. Mr. C and a few of us would arrive a couple of hours before the games and cook up some burgers and chorizos. There were other tailgaters arriving early too. Most of the fans still arrived just before the game and tailgating was not the norm.
Over the years, the Mr. C. tailgates grew into a huge event. Instead of just the grilled foods, we started doing special food for the different games. Everyone brought his or her own chili for one game. We did deep fried turkeys for another game. Southern Style BBQ for one game and some Dutch Oven cooking for other games.
At an Idaho game, we estimated over 600 people at our tailgate. It was 1990 and I noticed more tailgaters in the entire parking lot. We started coming down at 2 P.M. for a 6:00 game. For the first couple of hours, we would just walk around and visit the other tailgaters. I had a BAA membership that included stadium parking, but many fans just paid $5 per game to park and tailgate in the stadium parking lot.
In the late 1990's, I started to see some canopies in the parking lot. Fans grew tired of tailgating in the rain or hot sun. After the Broncos moved to the Big West, tailgating caught on with more fans. They arrived earlier and stayed after the games until the traffic cleared. Businesses started hosting tailgates. They would put up big banners advertising their business.
After the move to the Western Athletic Conference and the Broncos started to appear in the national rankings on a regular basis, ESPN started televising games. The Bronco home games started selling out and the demand for stadium parking increased. No longer could a fan pay $5 per game to park in the lot. The lot was reserved for BAA members on a first come basis. The BAA started charging extra fees for all the best tailgating spots.
Our tailgates with Mr. C. became so big that we split into two groups. The group of Internet posters starting tailgating by the message board on Broadway. At first, we had to race to the tailgating spots early to get the ones by the message board. Some days we tailgated 10 hours prior to the games. In 2003, our tailgating spot became a reserved spot for an addition $250 per season. But we did not have to get to the parking lot so early anymore. So now, the tailgates are usually around 6 hours prior to the games. We all have canopies now. We sit in the shade and drink our beverages and listen to other college football games.
Now, when you go to the football games at Boise State, the stadium lot is full of tailgaters. Many have huge canopies with satellite dishes and big screen TV's. Many are sponsored by businesses. Almost all of the tailgate groups have canopies now. Starting in the 2006 season, the entire stadium parking will require a BAA membership plus another $200 parking pass. Parking lot personnel walk around using tape measures to make sure the tailgaters are fitting in their designated spots. Alcohol is illegal in the parking lot. Drinking alcoholic beverages is done discreetly.
The BroncoCountry tailgating starts about six hours before the games with a small group of 10 or 12 and remains pretty small until a couple of hours prior to the games, then there are 100's of fans packed into our 5 spots. We still do some tailgating at half time, and after the games while the traffic clears.
I can't imagine college football without tailgating. It is an all day event for most college fans. Some fans come to the tailgates and stay tailgating during the games. Tailgating at Boise State rivals college tailgating anywhere in the country. It is no longer what the old fans do. The college kids are tailgating with the alumni and fans. Children of all ages are there with the friends and families. Tailgating has become a large part of the college day atmosphere.
To get a flavor of our tailgates, visit our tailgate website: http://bctailgating.mariah95.com/