The guitar riffs echoing off the cold concrete between the University of Cincinnati's campus and Short Vine are usually those of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs. The goal isn't to always wake up the nearby
neighbors friends, but, for a number of reasons, you can't enjoy a proper gameday tailgate without a little music.
And since the Bearcats have moved home games this year to the Bengal's Paul Brown Stadium (say what?), we thought it might be a good idea to get you ready for tailgate season. Not interested in tailgating? Check out the new Bearcats on the Banks concept released by UC.
But if you are interested in tailgate options for this fall, the music, food, and drinks don't have to change - but the locations are definitely different. Here's a Q&A with Mike from the Republic of Cincinnati - a fun, open-armed group looking to shed light on the tailgating options available to Bearcat fans.
Down the Drive: First things first, how will your tailgate this season at Paul Brown Stadium differ from year's past (in Clifton)?
Republic of Cincinnati: The biggest change is that we'll be in a centrally located spot with plenty of parking near the action. For games at Nippert Stadium, we're tucked away in the lot behind Bogarts - and while relatively easy to find, the lot now fills up 2-3 hours before kickoff. Longworth Hall will have plenty of parking for those that want to show up early or right before kickoff.
We'll also be joining forces with some of the other tailgating groups this year (with hopes of permanently joining them on The Grid in 2015 and beyond).
One of the changes this year is that we're exploring having some food trucks join us for two weeknight games (USF & ECU) to help promote local businesses and alleviate the need to bring as much gear. Details will be posted on our website once finalized.
DTD: Speaking of year's past, have you witnessed any changes in tailgating atmosphere at UC over the length of your fandom?
RoC: The tailgating atmosphere has mirrored the success of the football program. After UC joined the Big East and started to build some momentum, tailgaters started sprouting.
The first group I recall that really embraced it was the Bearcat Tailgaters who posted up at the Schiel School lot across from Sigma Sigma. They single handedly brought a "big time" tailgating atmosphere to UC. As the team's success continued, fans continued to step up their tailgating games, with dedicated vehicles/trailers and staking claim to regular spots.
Additionally, in 2011, UCATS and the 1200 Club joined forces to establish The Grid at Sigma Sigma Commons (on campus), which has really improved the pregame atmosphere for those that want to be close to the action and/or do not necessarily want to hassle with all of the baggage the comes with "traditional" tailgating (grills, coolers, etc).
DTD: What's one thing a casual football fan may not realize about the Bearcat tailgating scene?
RoC: Bearcats fans travel! While we've been to bowl games in Miami, New Orleans, Memphis, and Charlotte, the most overwhelming road tailgate atmosphere was last year at Illinois. Although the game certainly didn't go the way we had planned, the tailgate was incredible. We literally had a lot to ourselves and had about 6-8 rows of UC fans set up and tailgating 4-5 hours before kickoff.
Bowl games are the best, though, without a doubt - simply because of the destination and consequences (10 win, BCS game, etc). Although not necessarily a "tailgate", Bearcats fans taking over Bourbon Street in the week leading up to the 2010 Sugar Bowl is something I'll never forget.
DTD: Are you traveling to any non-Cincinnati locations this year?
RoC: At the moment, we've committed to going to OSU, Tulane, and the bowl game. Still a possibility for some late season additions (perhaps SMU).
DTD: What's your favorite tailgate dish and beer of choice?
RoC: We mix it up, but usually something Cincinnati related (coneys, etc). The best tend to be the ones with the easiest cleanup. Our tailgates are always BYOB, so it varies - I usually stick with Yuengling Light.
DTD: What's the secret handshake or saying to get into the RoC tailgate?
RoC: Our tailgates are literally open to everyone. The sole purpose for our group isn't to become "the" tailgating group at UC - it's to promote tailgating and Bearcat pride at home and on the road. If you've already got a tailgating group, we encourage you to park near us: bigger parties = better parties. If you're flying solo or don't have anywhere else to go, you're always welcome - just look for the City of Cincinnati flag (and maps at our website posted for each game, home & away).
Generally, we show up at least 4 hours before kickoff. If someone is planning to attend, we always encourage that they BYOB and something to throw on the grill or a side (if they intend to eat). We almost always have too much food, but we'd rather have extra than to run out.
Big thanks to the RoC for helping with this article. Take a look at the official Bearcats Gameday website, too, to get familiar with the different tailgating spots for the 2014 season.