Tiger tailgate traditions had humble beginnings - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Tiger tailgate traditions had humble beginnings

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Sarah Bleau/FOX 13 Sarah Bleau/FOX 13
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Barbeque, hillbilly golf, cornhole, the Tiger Walk: They are all Memphis Tiger football tailgate traditions that have humble beginnings.

"Back in the late '90s, everybody thought – four guys thought – how great it would be to set up a tailgating tradition here and they started with their RV on Friday nights over by the Coliseum," says Jeb Hill, a former president for the Highland Hundred, the Memphis Tigers' booster club.

Fast forward to 2013: Hundreds of tents line Tiger Lane – an area dedicated to Tiger tailgating – bringing thousands of people to the Liberty Bowl.

"Most of my friends that I have now is through this experience," says Randy McKnight, another former Highland Hundred president.

A time-honored tailgate tradition today that also started small: The Tiger Walk.

Ricky Kirby, a former Highland Hundred president, says their group started the Tiger Walk ten years ago back in the Highland Hundred parking area, adding, "We would line up and guys would get off the bus and we'd cheer and the band would lead them on, and it's gravitated on down to Tiger Lane."

Current University of Memphis students say the tailgates have gained popularity over the years. They say three years ago, the energy wasn't there.

"When we were tailgating at Toby Park, no excitement, no attendance; maybe five organizations, maybe five people per organization," says U of M Student President Ricky Kirby.

Many students credit Football Coach Justin Fuente's new energy for revitalizing the tailgates.

The student government is working to bring students together as one Tiger Nation. This year, students had their own designated tailgate area featuring free food and entertainment.

"We had some students tailgating over there, some over there, some over there," recalls Kirby of past tailgates, "We wanted to bring all of our students together and it draws more students to the game."

It drew Junior Johnny Holmes to his very first Memphis Tigers tailgate. Holmes says, "It's massive, first of all, and there's a lot of tailgating, people with the Memphis spirit. Just very uplifting, makes me proud to be a Memphis Tiger."

The next Memphis Tiger football home game is Sept. 21.

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