The tailgating experience takes many forms at Huskie Stadium

DeKALB — As the Huskie football team prepares to battle, fans partake in their favorite tailgating traditions and show off their Huskie pride.

On game days, NIU offers several areas for fans to indulge in tailgating lore. The student tailgate area is located in the southwest corner of the east lawn adjacent to the stadium. The university also has parking lots at the NIU Convocation Center and the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex.

In the hours leading up to kick-off, hookers can be found playing sacks, grilling meat and drinking beer, among other things. Of the hundreds of fans who come to campus before a home game, the one thing that brings them all together is Northern Illinois University, but not everyone has a direct connection to NIU.

“Everyone here has some sort of affiliation with the Huskies,” Lakeview resident Ed Johnson said of his tailgating group. “A lot of our group isn’t even an elder. They love being here so much. They are Honorary Huskies.

Many fans kick off the festivities as soon as the car parks open, some have even arrived before. Although it may seem simple, preparing a tailgate can be a complex process.

“The Gameday experience begins a month in advance when we start planning with our family,” said Naperville resident Patrick Hansen. “It’s a planning event.”

The spectrum of fans celebrating a home game can range from the casual Huskie fan to the players’ family.

“My grandson is playing,” Sauk Village resident Alexis Abatzis said. Abatzis is the grandmother of redshirt senior running back Clint Ratkovich. “It’s always fun to get together with my grandson’s family and friends.”

Tailgating also gives fans the opportunity to express themselves and their Huskie pride in their own unique way. While some setups can be as simple as a rally around a vehicle, others can include features like a stereo system, food range, and even a Staley Da Bear inflatable.

While fans are brought together by their Huskie pride, they differ in their favorite aspects of the tailgating experience. Some enjoy playing sacks and DJing on the tailgate, while others find making the ordeal a family affair takes the cake.

As electric as the experience can be, some say earning a tally in the win column triumphs over other aspects of gameday.

“(Winning is) the best part,” Madison resident Shepherd Groves said. “It always puts a smile on your face when you walk away with a win.”

Meanwhile, others see tailgating as the highlight of their gaming experience.

“It’s just a real joy,” said freshman marketing major Hayes Rynell. “It gets to you, and you’re like, ‘We’re hounding this weekend? I can’t wait.'”

Whether you’re wearing red and black or representing the opposing team in enemy territory, tailgating sets the tone for the rest of the day and represents true fandom at its best.

“It’s all about the experience,” said Rockford resident Michael Ostrowski. “Whether you have appetizers or a full meal. Just the camaraderie and the people. The whole experience is fantastic.

The next opportunity for fans to hook up on campus will be at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 16, when the Huskies take on the Bowling Green State University Falcons.