The Daily Gamecock

Column: South Carolina has most unique tailgate experience in the country

<p>Students listen to music and dance while partying at the Fraternity Lots, a popular student tailgating event.</p>
Students listen to music and dance while partying at the Fraternity Lots, a popular student tailgating event.

South Carolina football has one of the most elite tailgate and game-day experiences in the entire country.

With South Carolina football struggling over the last few years, it has become increasingly evident how impressive the Gamecock culture and fanbase is. Looking at other schools in the SEC – and outside of the conference – a few aspects of Gamecock culture stand out.

The line of 22 Cockabooses stretching in front of Williams-Brice Stadium is a tailgating staple for both South Carolina and college football. A higher-end way for fans to tailgate, USC fans have used the Cockabooses since 1990 after Columbia businessman Ed Robinson had the idea. 

According to Saturday Down South, Wayne Drehs of ESPN described the Cockabooses as “the perfect blend of football, hospitality and luxury partying.” Tailgating in one of the Cockabooses is most likely at the top of many Gamecock football fans' bucket lists.

The Cockabooses were even copied by the University of Louisville, but while South Carolina shows off 22 cabooses in front of Williams-Brice, Louisville only has 14. It's not surprising that Louisville was inspired by the Cockabooses: They exist as an ideal pre-game spot for passionate fans looking for something different, and are the perfect attraction outside of the stadium.  

The Cockabooses have even made waves across the Atlantic, where the Daily Mail wrote about USC's "railgating."

Even though the Cockabooses are roughly 30 years old, Gamecock fans can expect them to stick for awhile.

Another unique feature of South Carolina tailgating is the Fraternity Lot, an open field that is home to 14 fraternity tailgates.

A short walk away from the stadium, the lot is in a prime location. The Fraternity Lot is not the typical college pre-game or party: It becomes an incredible atmosphere on game days. Inside the lot, thousands of students party under tents with DJ booths and other forms of entertainment.  

"It's definitely unique in its own way. Haven't been to a school that does something similar," Jimmy Perrone, a second-year finance student at USC, said.  

Earlier this semester, Perrone took a trip to Knoxville to see Carolina take on Tennessee. In comparison to South Carolina's tailgates, Perrone said he didn't have nearly as much fun at Knoxville as he does at the Fraternity Lot. 

By hosting concerts and other events throughout the semester, as well as tailgates, the Fraternity Lot brings the student community together in a special way that is specific to USC.

For other tailgaters, Gamecock Park is a perfect location to spend a Saturday.

Gamecock Park is located right outside Williams-Brice and includes 50 acres of land ready to use on game days. This park has space for more than 3,000 vehicles — making it South Carolina’s biggest tailgate space. 

It is also the location of the pre-game pep rally, so fans who tailgate at Gamecock Park get to see the Gamecock Walk — the procession of the USC football team and band down Garnet Way. Overall, it is one of Carolina’s stronger traditions and an amazing scene for college football fans.

The rest of college football also sees South Carolina’s tailgate experience as one of the best in the nation. Behind Ole Miss, 247Sports ranked Columbia as the second-best tailgate in college football. 

South Carolina who has not had a double-digit winning record since 2013 — continues to excel in the experience it brings to fans. All of the different opportunities for tailgates and game-day activities make for an excited fanbase — regardless of how well the team is performing.

Overall, USC offers something that no other school in the country can. With a dedicated fan base and unique tailgating options, USC has everything in place to support a winning football team. Hopefully in a new era with Shane Beamer, the Gamecocks can finally put it all together and give the school what it has always been ready for.