Tailgating for state's biggest football rivalry is serious business

Planning, preparation turn Perimeter Road area into pregame carnival of clashing colors and opinion

Clemson fans enjoy tailgating with former Tiger player Derrick Hamilton (center) before the South Carolina Game

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson fans enjoy tailgating with former Tiger player Derrick Hamilton (center) before the South Carolina Game

Tailgating for South Carolina's biggest rivalry game of the year is serious business.

That's just the way it is when Clemson University and the University of South Carolina meet for a football matchup.

Hours before kickoff Saturday, fans of both persuasions filled a parking lot off Perimeter Road in Clemson, not too far from the shadow of Death Valley.

Cynthia Jacobus and her crew of 40 family members and friends do this every time Clemson has a home game. They've done it for six years now, and they have tailgating down to a science.

Jacobus' daughter and son-in-law, Tiffany and Brandon Blackwell, both earned degrees from Clemson.

Jacobus lives in Greenville, but her tailgating party draws her family and friends from Anderson and all over the state. Her family calls her the "queen of tailgating," and she wears a bejeweled football necklace and an orange-sequined top befitting of a royal.

She even has a banner with their family name on it, so that any other Jacobus can find them in a crowd.

The family comes prepared with a generator, a grill, two 47-inch, high-definition televisions, three heaters and four tables.

It takes them about 30 minutes to set up.

"We tear down a lot faster," Jacobus said. "Because by then, there has been drinking."

The menu is always different, and the preparation is so careful that cold foods stay cold and hot foods stay hot no matter how long the party lasts.

"Since we are playing the Gamecocks," Jacobus said Saturday, "today, we are absolutely having fried chicken."

Across the parking lot, a South Carolina Gamecocks tent stood out.

Craig Cahaly of Anderson, a South Carolina alumnus, was the man under the tent.

He was joined by several other fans of the Gamecocks. So Cahaly's friend, Anthony Richey, seemed a little lost in his Clemson-orange pants.

"Craig's my boss and he invited me, so I came," Richey said. "I have been coming to Clemson games since I was just about a baby. I used to fall asleep in the stands. I don't miss games if I can help it."

Richey and Cahaly were equally sure their respective teams would win.

Cahaly predicted Carolina would be victorious with a score of 34-17.

Richey was just as confident, saying that the Tigers would top the Gamecocks 45-28.

Cahaly just shook his head at Richey and laughed.

"The more beers he drinks, the more the score goes up," Cahaly said.

No matter the outcome, the tailgaters said, one thing is certain: The strength of the rivalry will endure.

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