Go Cocks! Tailgating at a University of South Carolina Football Game Is a Perfect Fall Afternoon

By:Kerry Egan

Date:8/26/2016

If you're visiting Columbia on a fall weekend when the Gamecocks are playing football at Williams-Brice Stadium, do yourself a favor and see if you can score some tickets. It's worth attending – not just for the game itself, but for the whole tailgating culture that surrounds the massive stadium complex.

There's a reason South Carolina is famous for its tailgating scene, where thousands of people have paid thousands of dollars for prime parking spots just to tailgate, entertainment-centric condos (where some people actually live) kick up the game-day experience in all sorts of ways and where abandoned cabooses on an old train track behind the stadium have been turned into luxurious and highly sought-after "Cockabooses." It's not just a game – it's a day-long party. It's a lifestyle.

You don't have to go all out with glass stemware, catered food and big screen TVs hooked up to the cars battery, like some Gamecocks hostesses do. We definitely, though, suggest you walk around a bit to see some of the amazing tailgate setups. You won't believe how luxurious the back of a truck can be. But don't think you need to prepare for days for your tailgate if you don't want to. All you really need to do is stop somewhere along the way for a big tub of fried chicken or barbecue and a six-pack of something cold to drink. In fact, you'll find barbecue joints and fried chicken restaurants along the roads to the stadium for just that reason. But what if the kickoff is at noon? Easy – bring brunch and mimosas.

And if you don't actually have a truck with a tailgate to sit on? Well, there's still no problem. Just bring some folding chairs, food and a good attitude. Right there you have a party.

What to wear? You can't go wrong with a USC T-shirt. If you really want to get in the spirit, buy yourself a special garnet and black sundress at Miss Cocky Boutique. The college girls will be wearing little black dresses and cowboy boots, so that's an idea too.

Get there early – at least three hours before game time. You'll see people waving cars into grassy fields and paved lots along streets near the stadium. Pick a spot that looks fun and lively. The fields next to the train tracks on Shop Road are usually a good bet, and there is sometimes non-reserved parking available in the State Fairgrounds. Set up, start eating, and make friends with your tailgating neighbors.

Head to Gamecock Park about 2.5 hours before the game to catch the Gamecock Walk. That's where the team makes its way through the crowd, some slapping high fives, others focused on the game ahead. The marching band follows, playing the fight song and other game-day favorites. Snap a selfie with Cocky, pick up a white towel if someone is handing them out (they usually are) then head back to tailgate.

Plan on getting to your seat about 30 minutes before kickoff so you can see the pre-game entertainment and the universe-shaking moment that Cocky, the mascot is revealed and the team bursts out onto the field. Some call it the best entrance in college football, and you won't want to miss it. You also might be able to get your picture taken with Sir Big Spur, our fighting Gamecock.

When you hear the techno song "Sandstorm," stand up and wave that white towel like everybody else in the place. It's a guaranteed way to get fired up for kickoff.

A Gamecocks game is a ridiculously fun experience, even if you aren't a Gamecocks fan, or even a football fan at all. Just soak it all in. It's something great to discover on a beautiful fall day in Columbia.

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