At a recent Tennessee-Florida game in Knoxville, I stood on the bleachers in the upper deck, looking over the banks of the Tennessee River. I felt at home. I felt the souls of the bridges, the familiarness of the Knoxville skyline,
the haze of the Smoky Mountains in the distance,
the pulse of the river and the specialness of the Vol Navy.
When you talk about tailgating at Tennessee you talk about the Vol Navy. Seeing hundreds of boats making their way up the Tennessee River, to dock right outside the stadium is a sight every fan should experience.
The boats tie off each other, sometimes 10 deep.
My “Tailgating With The Vol Navy” painting depicts the Vol Navy, the Knoxville skyline, including the historic Andrew Johnson Hotel,
the Lady Vols Boathouse, home to the Tennessee crew team, Calhoun’s on the River, a favorite Knoxville barbecue restaurant, oranges for Big Orange Country, and the Henley Street Bridge. To this day one of my reoccurring dreams is about the Henley Street Bridge falling into the Tennessee River. I can’t make it across the bridge and have to swim the river.
“Tailgating With The Vol Navy” fine quality poster print 11×14 makes a great gift.
Curt and Dave have fun from our high vantage point tailgate.
Click orange Curt’s famous Smokey Burgers (then next at bottom right) for Curt’s recipe.
My Tennessee tailgating crew includes several Vol fans plus Lizzie and James with their Gator friends. They enjoyed seeing the Vol Navy from our tailgating spot.
Notice Dave’s conflicting shirt. A Gator logo and a Tennessee button. He knows how to play both sides. Or when Mama’s happy, everyone is happy.
Tailgating at Tennessee is not only about The Vol Navy. There are plenty of other tailgating spots throughout campus. Joy McCabe, friends and family stake out the same spot year after year. Joy is known for her tailgating segment on WBIR in Knoxville.
Joy is a wonderful cook and sent me many tailgating recipes. You can enjoy Joy’s Crisp Pecan Cookies under Tennessee Signature Recipes on my website. Watch for future recipes from Joy McCabe. Her Cornbread Layered Salad is a huge hit and will be posted another day.
Once inside the stadium, the orange and white checkerboard in each end zone catches your attention. It makes Neyland Stadium one of the most recognizable stadiums in the country. And the fact that Neyland is the largest in the South, holding over 102,000 fans.
There is nothing more exciting to me than the pregame shows at most schools. The bands play stirring renditions of the songs important to their schools. Tennessee’s Pride Of The Southland’s pregame show is one of the best in college football. I love hearing an upbeat “Tennessee Waltz”, “Alma Mater March”, and of course “Rocky Top” played while marching down the field in the Power T formation.
What most visiting fans don’t realize is the Tennessee band always faces the opposing team’s band and fans and welcomes them by playing the visiting team’s fight song. It is a great tradition. Of course then comes “Rocky Top” and the crowd roars its approval.
Meanwhile the players slap a sign on their way out of the locker room, “I will give my all for Tennessee today!” and wait excitedly at the mouth of the tunnel.
As the band plays “Here’s To Old Tennessee”, the crescendo builds until the “Opening of the T”. Smokey, the cheerleaders, players and coaches run through the T.
Thanks for the memories, Tennessee. George Bitzas singing the Star Spangled Banner for 27 years. I still get cold chills when I remember his spectacular ending.
The UT drum major running through the T. The Pride of the Southland’s “Salute to the Hill” at the bottom of The Hill. The pregame run of the Tennessee Walking Horse on the sidelines. Charlie Daniels singing “Devil Went Down To Georgia” in the pouring rain at halftime against Alabama. Peyton Manning conducting Rocky Top at the end of an important victory.
Kenny Chesney’s “Touchdown Tennessee”, a tribute to John Ward, Tennessee’s longtime radio play by play announcer. If you haven’t heard it give it a try. Gives me chills every time. “We heard 20, 15, 10 and 5. Your voice was our eyes and we could see, Touchdown Tennessee.”
Ayres Hall on The Hill
Watch for upcoming stories from my tailgating travels. I welcome your comments, recipes and any inside information on your favorite tailgating spots.
Come celebrate with me. I’ll save you a seat at the table.