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Freshman 101: Your Guide To Penn State Tailgating

It’s that time of year again. The season of sore feet, lost voices, missed assignments, and violent hangovers.

Penn State football season is upon us, folks, and it’s not for the faint of heart. The main event, with its culture of passionate ballads of “Sweet Caroline,” overpriced chicken baskets, and stadium-shaking touchdown tosses, is our religion.

Penn State’s nationally recognized tailgating culture, however, is a formidable beast to students, too. It’s easy for students to get too excited throughout pre-game activities, leaving them exhausted and unable to enjoy the game itself.

Well, freshmen, Onward State has prepared your guide to the tailgating scene to ensure you do the Penn State football pregame right.

Dress For Success

It’s the morning of gameday. You woke up bright and early to get to your tailgating spot as soon as possible, and the idea of burgers and buffalo chicken dip is fueling your determination. Here comes the first big decision of the day: What to wear?

The gameday outfit is a crucial element that either makes or breaks your experience. While cute pictures are a necessity, you may have to leave your new sneakers at home.

Exposure to the elements, grassy lots, or messy tailgate acquaintances naturally invite dirt, food stains, and on rainy days, water damage. Not to mention, your feet will get stepped on in the student section. Your feet will be hurting in some way, shape, or form, so help yourself out and choose comfort over style.

The temperature is also all over the place in the fall, so consider the chilly late-night walk home and plan accordingly. While we’re discussing outerwear, do not be embarrassed to sacrifice your fit checks for a poncho. Wear the poncho. You’ll thank us later.

Have A Game Plan

After checking yourself out in the mirror one last time, you reach for your phone to text your friends for the tailgate pin. Instead, you realize that every message gets lost in a tangled web of poor cell service and now you’re stuck, wandering aimlessly looking for a blue tent and a random flag.

With everyone and their mom texting “WYA,” additional planning is a must. Make sure to send locations and meeting spots ahead of time.

We also recommend sending texts with timestamps. Due to the sometimes hours-long delays in message delivery, an “I’m leaving lot 12 now” text won’t be delivered in time. Instead modify the text to “I’m leaving lot 12 now, 12:36 p.m.” to help minimize miscommunication.

Drink (Responsibly)

Alcohol and tailgating are linked together in the same way blue and white are. In the comfort of good (and probably intoxicated) company, it’s easy to absentmindedly crack open a drink.

Although Penn Staters like to have fun, surround yourself with folks you trust, remember that, at the end of the day, underage drinking is illegal, and make smart choices.

Prioritize Your Health

On the topic of drinking, gamedays are a marathon, not a sprint. With sometimes lenient rule enforcement and seemingly spiked everything, many fall into the trap of surrendering before even seeing inside the stadium. Don’t be the person being carried back to their dorm or puking in one of the stadium’s stalls before the starting lineup is announced.

Eat and drink water. The food at the tailgates is cheaper than in the stadium. Take advantage of all the freshly grilled hot dogs and tangy, homemade pasta salad.

Another crucial thing to remember is sunscreen. There’s nothing more awkward than a paw-print-shaped tan mark on your cheek or painful burns on shirtless shoulders.

Leave No Trace

After some pong, cornhole, and eating your weight in nachos, it’s time to roll out and join the mass migration to Beaver Stadium. While the excitement is overwhelming, don’t forget to clean your space. Trash and recycling bags are located throughout the lots. A simple solution is to just tie a bag to your tent for an easy cleanup effort.

Bring Only The Essentials

Making your way to Gate A, you file into the massive lines of students scanning tickets and going through security. You reach the front of the line, your ticket ready to go in your Apple Wallet, and the person manning the ticket booth asks for your student ID, but you don’t have it.

To prevent that walk of shame back to your room, remember to pack your student ID, and double-check that your ticket is in your possession, ready to scan.

Show Penn State Kindness

When at an alumni’s tailgate, say thank you and be friendly. Most, if not all, tailgates have a warm, everyone-is-welcome mantra. Don’t just come in and ransack the free food and drinks. You’re a guest and most of the adults are interested in hearing how your year is going.

Don’t boo or yell at an opposing team’s tailgate or go out of your way to make a rival fan’s day terrible, either. Not only is it generally an awful thing to do, but it’s also not good for the brand.

This also applies to the student body around the time when Gate A turns into the cornucopia in the “Hunger Games.” It’s both rude and completely unnecessary.

Think of it this way, if you’re within pushing distance, you’re probably going to end up sitting in the same or nearby row to the person you’re trying to get ahead of. Save yourself the irritation and embarrassment.

Make The Most Of It

Have fun. You only have 24 home games to attend in your college career, so make the most of them. Take photos, cheer obnoxiously, and eat ungodly amounts of fried food. You earned your seat in one of the best student sections in the nation.

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About the Author

Marie Moyer

Marie is a fourth-year student majoring in journalism and minoring in sociology. She loves being fiscally irresponsible at local farmers markets, watching niche documentaries on HBO, and going to Penn State hockey games as "self-care." You can reach her on Instagram - @_mariemoyer_ or send her suggestions (and cat photos) via her email - [email protected].

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