The view from where the author and her parents sat

The Parent Tailgate

It's all in the family

Campus over the Nov. 8 weekend buzzed with families and this was the second year my wonderful parents visited me to cheer on the Wildcats’ football team. This year’s game day brought us some unique memories from black squirrels to fist fights. Go 'Cats.

We started the day exploring the streets of Evanston until the tailgates started up. Making our way through the alleyways, we bopped around Hamlin and Simpson when suddenly my mom stopped, ready to pull out her camera. In the bush was a black squirrel.

Now, we are from Florida, so black squirrels are as infrequent as a snow flurry.

In our futile effort to get a picture, the little guy was too fast for us. He disappeared behind the bushes where my dad further tried to find him. As we were leaving, this squirrel darted out again. Camera shy or a diva, he was not about to have his picture taken.

At the end of our little excursion, the tailgates had begun and we walked over to my “grandma’s,” aka sorority sister in Gamma Phi Beta, family tailgate at her house. When we walked into the living room, we saw parents crowded tightly together talking as a football game played on TV. Bagels of every kind from chocolate chip to cinnamon crunch to plain were out for grabs and a pot of cider was in the kitchen. When meeting my pledge family’s actual family and other guests, a lot of conversation starters began jokingly with what even was a pledge family, leaving us students to further try to explain this unique networked bond. The tailgate took to the cozy side of pregaming compared to the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity tailgate resonating just outside the window in the nippy weather. Chuckles came from my parents looking at this other tailgate, indicating we’ve all been there.

Afterward we caught the end of the Fitzerland festivities. Pretty much everyone was working his or her way to the stadium, but the Kraft tailgate seemed to be in full swing with people mingling inside the tent. Unfortunately, this was for Kraft employees only. Sadly, just liking their cheese wasn’t enough to gain access. Walking around were clusters of families and at one booth still open, kids were dashing through an obstacle course. What the kids were racing for? I don't know, but they seemed to have mastered this jumble of barriers. 

Basically, at Fitzerland we arrived in time to get some free NU gear at the remaining open stands like Evanston Subaru and Target. In my opinion, we were successful: two Evanston Subaru Northwestern cozies, a seat “cushion” and five phone sticky cardholders.

In the stadium, meeting up with the parents took me multiple switchbacks and asking four venue staffers before I could find the multicolored section 116, filled with both Michigan and Northwestern fans. My journey in Ryan Stadium had me thinking of Tech, yet this section added more excitement.

Not too long into the game, a fight broke out between some Michigan fans, causing people to tumble forward in the bleachers. Everyone rose in confusion with yelling and fingers pointing of who threw the first punch. As cheering roared in the background, the police, event security and medical staff were there to resolve the situation and clean up some splattered blood on the bleachers. Aside from the first punches thrown, no one was seriously hurt, thankfully.

Donned in purple, we yelled, “Go 'Cats!” for the rest of the game, and with about ten seconds left, we all embraced in a big family hug in celebration of the touchdown. We were shocked, excited and felt the 'Cats were back in the game. I think everyone around us assumed Northwestern would tie the game for overtime, but when we registered the two-point conversion was happening, confusion spread. All we could do was hold our breath until the untimely slip on the play left us justifying the decision of the team to go for two instead of one. Even though the game didn’t end how we hoped, game day itself was a win in my books. Being able to spend the day with my parents and have the odd, little advetnures we did made the day memorable. Next year's Family Weekend, Round 3, let's go.

The Team

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