Fans have two locations to tailgate at before games
The smell of the grill fills the air. The chatter from hundreds of different conversations roars outside and inside the stadium. Bill Gosche reminisces with his college buddies as they share what is going on in each others' lives. The stadium is packed with people to the point where it is hard to turn around.
Gosche, a Southeast Missouri State University alumnus, has memories from tailgating at homecoming. He has always loved and supported the Southeast football team, and has returned for homecoming and tailgated for around 25 years.
"Tailgating has kind of become an art," Gosche said. "When you're at the game and see the big crowd it's a great opportunity, I think, to socialize and make new friends."
The Redhawks will take on UT Martin during the homecoming football game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The homecoming game has the biggest tailgate of the entire season. Tailgating has become a tradition for some fans and they arrive to the football games early to eat, drink and enjoy the company of others.
However, 25 years ago tailgating at Southeast was not as simple.
"Before, tailgating consisted of getting up at 5 a.m. to park your car inside the stadium when the gates opened at 6 a.m. for a game that didn't start until 6 p.m. So you had to leave your car in the stadium all day," Gosche said. "Now all you have to do is buy a front row parking pass and can get there right before the game starts and be fine."
To get an end zone parking ticket an individual must be a Redhawk Club member at the executive level or above. An executive member is someone who has made a minimum donation of $1,000 to the athletic department.
Gosche believes that Southeast is unique with its form of end zone tailgating. An end zone ticket actually allows individuals to park in the lot directly behind the end zone of the stadium to tailgate and watch the game. Southeast's athletic department also sponsors a free tailgate near the stadium two hours before the game starts.
Some people enjoy the company of others who are eager to cheer on the Southeast football team, but a fan who attends the free tailgate Southeast hosts said the biggest appeal of tailgating is food.
"I love going to tailgates before the game," junior Tiffany Jones said. "I love it even more when food is involved, especially free food. [Tailgating] brings up the spirit of the game because everyone is having fun."
Jones also enjoys making friends and looks forward to networking when she tailgates.
"The purpose of tailgating is to come together," Jones said. "Take away all the food and drinks and you still have a crowd of people wanting to show support to the football team."