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,
Tennessee River, Knoxville skyline, bridges photo by Kathy Miller

the haze of the Smoky Mountains in the distance,
Smoky Mountains view from Neyland Knoxville, photo by Kathy Miller

the pulse of the river and the specialness of the Vol Navy.

The Vol Navy, Lady Vols Boathouse, Henley Street Bridge, Knoxville skyline photo by Kathy Miller

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.

Boats making their way up the Tennessee River for Vol Navy Knoxville photo by Kathy MillerThe boats tie off each other, sometimes 10 deep.

Vol Navy boat on the Tennessee River Knoxville photo by Kathy MillerMy “Tailgating With The Vol Navy” painting depicts the Vol Navy, the Knoxville skyline, including the historic Andrew Johnson Hotel,

Tailgating With The Vol Navy painting by Kathy Miller

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.

Curt and Dave tailgating high above the Vol Navy photo by Kathy Miller

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.

UT friends and Gator friends tailgate together in Knoxville on the Tennessee River photo by Kathy Miller

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 McCabe and family Tailgates in Knoxville Tennessee UT fans photo by Joy McCabe

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.

UT Checkerboard end zones Neyland Stadium photo by Kathy Miller

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.

UT Pride of the Southland Band Power T photo by Kathy Miller

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.

Tennessee's Opening of the T Knoxville game photo by Kathy Miller

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.”

The Hill

The Hill University of Tennessee photo by Kathy Miller

Ayres Hall on The Hill

Ayres Hall University of Tennessee on The Hill photo by Kathy Miller

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.


  • aurora ave says:

    Kathy: Charming storyline, moving to your painting and finishing
    with vast, filled stadium! Makes me wish (for the first time!)
    that I had experienced campus life and spirit in new york city.
    Onward, Rory

  • sec1fan says:

    Thank you Rory! You can come to any game with me.

  • Laura says:

    OK, you have me convinced that I need to attend a Tennessee game with you! What fun to get into the spirit of all this! xoxo

  • sec1fan says:

    Yes I would love for you to join me at a Tennessee game, or a Florida game! Steve and Jen have joined us for Florida basketball games! Can’t wait to see you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2024 Kathy Miller. All Rights Reserved.

Website Design and Developed by PMCJAX