Let’s hear it for Mountaineer Nation. Once again, fans created memorable, curtain-rising tailgates and the Mountaineers pulled out a shutout, season-opening victory to kick off West Virginia football.
College football brings out the best in traditions and pageantry, and as Dave and I prepared to create an unrivaled pregame experience last Saturday, I started thinking about the many traditions that make Mountaineer football so spectacular and special.
These traditions start in the days leading up to game weekend with the planning of the food and drink menu, but I’m going to focus on the actual gameday traditions in this post.
1. The early morning set up
One of Dave’s favorite traditions is getting to the gold lot between 6:30 and 7 a.m., no matter what time the game starts. For our night game last Saturday, he arrived at 6:50 a.m. and was the third car there. Now that’s what you call dedication.
I typically show up a couple hours later. I like to get a little extra shuteye and then walk the 1.8 miles from our hotel to the gold lot. It’s good to start my daylong binge on food and drink with some empty-stomach cardio.
Once I get there, Dave always has breakfast for me. For this one, we had ham and cheese omelettes.
2. Hanging out with fellow Mountaineer fans
The first game day of the season is particularly special because you get to see friends you haven’t seen since the last season. I love catching up with everyone and chewing the fat about Mountaineer football.
Occasionally, you even get to see long, lost friends from childhood. That’s what happened to me on Saturday. I met up with Tricia Funk, a childhood friend I haven’t seen in about 25 years. I often see her son, Josh, in our lot but this was the first time I saw her there.
I’m hoping to see Tricia at more tailgates this year since she got her first taste of one with gourmet tailgater Dave Joliet.
3. Watching the gold lot come alive
As the saying goes, all that glitters is gold, and no where is that more evident than in our gold lot. Throughout the morning, we watch as the lot swells with the Mountaineer faithful and their passion for everything WVU.
The excitement was palpable and permeated the thick, humid air surrounding Milan Puskar Stadium. The Batten family, who tailgated next to us, always come to the first game of the year just to experience the atmosphere.
I can relate. Words can’t accurately describe it. It’s something you can only feel.
And aside from the laughs and camaraderie we enjoy with fellow tailgaters, we love soaking in the sights and sounds of the tailgating scene. Our lot Saturday was filled with passionate Mountaineer fans who know how to have a good time. See for yourself in the pics below.
4. Savory food and drink
No two things unite tailgaters more than delicious food and drink. And since this was a night game, Dave got to exercise his culinary skills with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
His lunch menu featured bacon and scallops, grilled cubanelles stuffed with sweet Italian sausage, and chickpea salad with honey garlic lime vinaigrette.
For dinner, Dave served up chicken kabobs over Hawaiian wild rice and beef tenderloin filet. Watching Dave grill up gourmet meals all day to feed the masses is a sight to behold.
As soon as he’s done grilling, he serves up the mouthwatering dishes to grateful and hungry tailgaters. There’s never any danger of his meals dying on the pass.
In fact, Tricia said his food was her favorite part of the day. She even joked she was going to take him home with her.
5. Let’s go Mountaineers!
Nothing gets fans pumped like chants of “Let’s go Mountaineers!” It’s sweet ear-nectar to those who root for West Virginia.
Once you’re in the stadium, it’s a tradition for fans to square off during a cheer challenge led by the cheerleaders and the Mountaineer. One side of the stadium shouts “Let’s go” while the other responds “Mountaineers.”
The cheers are so loud they can spook cattle as far away as McDowell County, the southern most part of the state. We have the loudest, proudest fans of any team anywhere.
6. The Pride of West Virginia
About 350 members strong, West Virginia University’s band, aptly called the Pride of West Virginia, is one of the best marching bands in the nation. They have been thrilling fans with their outstanding arrangements and creativity for decades.
Their pregame show features the university’s fight songs, “Fight Mountaineers” and Hail West Virginia,” and of course “Country Roads.” This WVU anthem was added to the marching band’s pregame show in 1972, a year after John Denver released it, and has been performed every year since.
During “Country Roads,” the band marches end zone to end zone in the formation of the state’s borders. It gives me goose bumps every time I watch it.
7. Bring on the Mountaineers
Another glorious tradition is watching the Mountaineers charge onto the field from the south end of the stadium through a shroud of smoke. After the Mountaineer fires off his musket, he and the cheerleaders lead the team out onto the field.
8. First down cheer
Another unique tradition during the game is the first-down cheer prior to the announcement of a first down.
Created by students, Mountaineer fans raise their hands and cheer in unison until the first-down call is made. Following the call, they lift their arms up and down 3 times while chanting “WVU,” clap, and then signal to the end zone shouting “First Down.”
9. Singing “Country Roads” following a victory
My favorite part of the game is singing “Country Roads” in the stadium after the game. We only sing it after a win so I hope to sing “Country Roads” 6 more times this season.
I know every team takes pride in their unique approaches to game day, but I think ours definitely beat the band.
And after our impressive 44-0 victory over Georgia Southern, I’m really excited about what the season may bring. Let’s go.
So enjoy your blog! Nothing more exciting than the first game! The Country Roads vid gave me goosebumps.
Bud Tate says
The first down cheer was not created by the students. My father in section 105 from 1986 thru 1988 started and spread the first down cheer. There is a huge story behind it and if u want to know it just write me.
Andy Joliet says
Hi, Bud. I replied to your OVU email address. I’d love to chat with you about this. Thanks, Andy