Tailgating culture still strong 14 years after rule change


Archive Photo: Alumni Dave Fetterman, Vince Wood, and Mike Fay enjoy the festivities before the Homecoming game in October 2005.

Although the university changed its tailgating policies in 2000, the most loyal tailgaters remain a staple at Blue Hen home games.

With the set of rules from 2000, when the game starts, anyone on the property needs to be either in the stadium or driving away, and there will no longer be reentry with pass-out checks or hand stamps. The university is also enforcing an alcohol-free policy and requiring parking passes for all tailgaters.

“I’m quite experienced—I don’t know if you could say I’m world-class,” Jim Butler, 60, former student and longtime tailgater, says with a chuckle.

Butler says his tailgates are small, usually consisting of about four to six people.

“We started this pastime many years ago,” Butler says. “Some of my friends had a long-standing tailgate in the Brown lot, by the east entrance. Starting out, we would park all the way in the remote lot and drag all our gear in with food and drinks before the game.”

Butler says he considers his tailgates to be very relaxed, with a lot of conversation and catching up.

“We only see each other about six times a year, so the tailgate is typically very family oriented,” Butler says.

Kathie DegliObizzi, 54, has been tailgating with a larger crowd ever since her husband Mark, also 54, graduated from the university in 1983.

“Typically, our tailgates are never less than 20 people,” DegliObizzi says. “Even the trumpet players always stop by and do a dance before they go in.”

Through an annual $1,000 donation, DegliObizzi and her husband belong to the Delaware Diamond Society. Membership entails primetime parking near the soccer field and a large canopy in Section J. They have been in this section since they started this tradition in 1983, DegliObizzi says.

“Each year we have a theme,” DegliObizzi says. “Last year was the year of the bowl, in which every food was served in a bowl. The year before that we did a Spanish theme with ethnic food.”

DegliObizzi says the group also does other fun activities during the season, such as a chili cook-off and a “guys’ weekend” during certain away games.

Alumni aren’t the only passionate tailgaters.

Senior Megan Graf and her family took to the Delaware Stadium on Sept. 13 to cheer on the Blue Hens in their game against Colgate.

“I’m an only child, so my entire family lives for this,” Graf says. “My dad even made a blue and gold cornhole board for this weekend.”

Graf’s parents, Mary Beth and Wade Graf, came to the university—along with four aunts, four uncles and 12 cousins, who made the trip from Bridgewater, N.J. Before the game, the clan always takes a trip to the National 5 & 10 to stock up on university-themed apparel, Graf says.

“We had such a great time,” Graf says. “It’s an awesome way for my family to get together, share some laughs and have some great food. The day is never complete without my famous guacamole and my mom’s traditional margaritas. The entire family contributes something and we even make an itinerary for game day.”

Graf says she is surprised that more university students don’t participate in tailgating activities on game days.

“Once you make the hike up to the stadium, it’s most definitely worth it,” she says.

How long do these tailgaters plan to carry on their traditions?

“As long as the Hens stay competitive and it continues to be a friendly atmosphere, we hope to continue as long as possible,” Butler says.

Graf echoes Butler’s sentiments.

“It definitely gets bigger and rowdier every year,” Graf says. “This was our fourth annual tailgate, and hopefully, when I graduate, the tradition will continue on.”

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