The city of Athens, Georgia is a diverse college town in the heart of the south. With a thriving music scene, hip downtown shops and boutiques, restaurants, and plenty of bars, Athens offers everything from college sporting events to local art exhibits and music. It is also where the University of Georgia is located, the home of the Georgia Bulldogs, and member of the Southeastern conference. If you are a first timer at a Georgia football game, prepare for one of the great college traditions held by fans, students, and alumni.
Sanford Stadium is where it all takes place, although the event really begins while tailgating on campus. Georgia fans gather to eat food, drink beer, and talk trash before each home game. When getting a ticket is impossible due to a sell-out, many fans will watch the game while tailgating or at a local bar downtown, which is just blocks away from campus. One thing is for sure. When the leaves begin to change colors, the air becomes crisp, and there is that “new student” excitement in the air, it is college football season! And the University of Georgia hosts one of the best game day weekend events in the southeast.
Tailgating with the “Dawgs”
While tailgating a Georgia game a few years ago, I could not help notice that the UGA mascot of the bulldog is an excellent representation of the general atmosphere of the school and its students. The bulldog is a strong and brutish breed. It commands dominance in its stance. Bulldogs can be vicious, but at the same time, their appearance is undoubtedly rather humorous. Georgia fans tend to be the same way. While they will trash talk with the best of them, they tend to distinguish themselves in the fact that Georgia fans remain lighthearted and maintain a sense of humor. Nothing gets in the way of their fun.
Tailgating is an art form in Athens. There is great food, beer, and a general air of enjoyment and excitement. Female fans and students dress formal, generally in all black and red, often in dresses and pearls. Drinking is undeniably present on campus, although it is not officially allowed by authorities. Great food, beer, and black and red as far as the eye can see are the signs of a Georgia game day. After all, the game between Georgia and the University of Florida Gators has been titled, the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”.
Near Sanford Stadium, the “Dawg Walk” takes place, in which the team struts through crowds of “barking” fans as they enter the stadium, led by the Redcoat band. The proud successor of Uga VI, the bulldog mascot, Uga VII takes his place on the sidelines, usually in his “dawg” house or lying on a bag of ice to stay cool. Again, Georgia offers a little good humor to the game. Uga, pronounced “uh-guh”, was even named the “best college mascot” by Fox News. Inside Sanford Stadium the fans, mainly in the student section, are rowdy, energized, and shouting, “Go Dawgs!” at the top of their lungs. Although it has been a few years since head coach, Mark Richt, has led the team to a regional or national championship, Georgia fans show no falter in their support.
Celebrating/Drowning your sorrows
Downtown Athens offers a unique experience. Because Athens is the home of UGA, the city is basically has the feel of a closely knit college town. However, there is also an artsy scene, and a very dynamic music scene. Because of the music scene and numbers of college students, there are many bars and restaurants, with some of the cheapest drinks found in a downtown area. The majority of the bars are located along Washington, Lumpkin, Clayton, and Broad Streets. Located on Lumpkin Street is the Georgia Theatre, which my friends informed me was the most well known bar in Athens, mostly because of its musical influence, but also because it is so hip that it occasionally screens showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
We continued to Nowhere bar, which is packed with Georgia fans on game days, a haven for beer drinkers with over 100 beers on tap. On Washington Street, 8E’s bar is decorated in neon colors, with walls covered in posters of movies and albums from the 80’s. It plays all fun eighties dance music and offers fifty cent beers! Also on Lumpkin Street, The Globe, another famous bar and restaurant in Athens, has several different types of malt beverages, beers, and an exceptional menu. This is a chiller bar, where we ended the night relaxing on sofas and in rocking chairs, watching the passers-by from the large windows facing the corner of Lumpkin and Washington. Athens is also the birthplace of Terrapin Beer Company and Copper Creek Brewing Company. There are plenty of other bars, and almost too many to recommend. While out at night, expect to see at least a few people posing along the sidewalks with one of the hand painted bulldog statues that are found throughout downtown.
Perhaps the best breakfast or brunch I have ever had was at The Grit in Athens. It is a vegetarian restaurant that appeals to even die hard meat lovers. Scrambled vegetables, tofu, potatoes, biscuits that can be requested to be made vegan, and of course grits, are some of the main items offered. The Varsity is another historic restaurant in Athens, known for its burgers, french fries, chilidogs, and fifties style décor. There are plenty of affordable food options downtown, as well as more fine-dining alternatives.
Overall, my experience at Georgia on a game day weekend was not even comparable to that of other universities, due to the diversity and cool atmosphere of downtown Athens, the large UGA campus, and the proud attitudes of the Georgia Bulldogs. As far as tailgating at Georgia goes, the motto seems to be “Go big or go home!”
By Carrie McCloud