Louisianians who seek a vibrant tailgating scene this fall have the nation’s best pre-game revelry right in their backyard, in Baton Rouge for an LSU football game. There the party before Saturday home games begins on Friday evenings, and though the festivities slowly dissolve late Saturday night, at a true Tiger tailgate, the savory, spicy supply of Cajun home cooking never seems exhausted.
Fans of the purple and gold hope the Tigers’ play on the field is as strong as the party outside the stadium. A renowned reveler of Touchdown Village, Jaime San Andres, told Sports Illustrated in a profile of LSU tailgating, “We don’t fish. We don’t hunt. We don’t play golf. We do a party, and we don’t want nobody to outdo our party.” For LSU’s players, the bar is set high.
Most of today’s rambunctious tailgates grew from modest beginnings. Baton Rouge attorney Luke Williamson with 24 years of gameday experience owns one of the largest gatherings on campus, and for him “It started with a 12-pack of Milwaukee’s Best and a bag of Doritos,” he recounts. Though Zach Rau and his friends began their careers on that humble level, they have since advanced to the next phase, tier three of popular LSU tailgates. Nowadays, they serve 65 pounds of smoked pork, chicken legs, and macaroni and cheese. Their diners can chase a smoked meal with Abita Purple Haze and Michelob Ultra, for the hosts supply a keg of each. At most schools, Rau and friends would be near the top of the tailgate food chain, but not at LSU: “We’re young,” Rau told SI, “We don’t have the resources some other people have.”
Occupants of tier two, Fred Beam and Jaime San Andres do have ample resources. If you roam toward the corner of an RV lot known as Touchdown Village, there you will stumble upon a gathering of 200 or 300 Tiger fans. Beam and San Andres have set up a 24-foot bar that houses a 30-year-old daiquiris machine. The two estimate their guests will down 15 cases of beer and 10 gallons of daiquiris while devouring barbecued shrimp or crawfish étouffée.
The notorious residents of the first tier are named the Usual Suspects. Stationed near the Indian Mounds, Luke Williamson’s party of hundreds revel under a colossal inflatable tent. A DJ blasts music and catered fajitas are served at a buffet. If a partygoer is thirsty, a fully staffed bar serves drinks. Or, if a more adventurous reveler needs hydration, shots of vodka spill down a towering ice luge. On the normal Saturday, the Usual Suspects will dry roughly 40 1.5-liter bottles of liquor.
Inside the stadium, it all adds up to one of the best atmospheres in college football. But outside Death Valley, LSU’s tailgating scene is unequivocally the premier party of collegiate athletics.