20 Years of Tailgating

Friends Stavinoha, Burch, Holloway, and Smith purchased their burnt-orange Volkswagen in 2006; The tailgate across the pond in 2001.

“Come early, be loud, stay late, wear orange.” These commandments, which came down from former UT Football coach Mack Brown, have been the mantra for Texas tailgaters for years now. Though the last 20 years have been filled with ups and downs, Longhorns remain dedicated to showing up and doing their darndest to show their burnt-orange pride. We asked alumni to share their favorite memories of waiting around for the big game to start. 

Longhorns Across the Pond  

After seeing the Alcalde’s callout for tailgate pictures, Rick Kelly, BA ’88, Life Member, former Texas Exes United Kingdom Chapter member, and former Texas Exes Board member, told us about a tailgate that occurred away from DKR—about 4,900 miles east, actually. In 2001, he brought Longhorns a piece of home away from home for that year’s Texas-OU game. 

“There were no real streaming or internet options at that point, so we teamed up with the Texas Exes New York Chapter,” Kelly writes. “We all chipped in about $20 each, and the young lady in the front in the black blouse, Kim Wiethorn, BS ’00, Life Member, flew a VHS tape from New York to London overnight. We got a few of our closest Longhorn friends together and had ourselves one heck of a tailgate/game watch party.” 

A Menu Like No Other  

Charis Weiss, BJ ’90, started her tailgate group back in 2006 for a few reasons: Their usual host moved out of Austin and finding parking and reservations at restaurants on gameday was tough. But there was no bigger factor than the Longhorns winning the 2005 National Championship. Riding high off that feeling, Weiss and some friends who sat together in Section 1 of DKR back in the day decided it was time to get things started.  

Over the years their tailgate grew. At one point, they started choosing a menu that would “honor” UT’s opponents. This eventually morphed into the group attempting to spell “TEXAS” with the items of choice—frog legs for TCU, Teddy Grahams for Baylor, Rice Krispies Tsreats for Rice, and Weiss’ personal favorite, steak, or “Sir Loin” for the UCF Golden Knights. “Our spot next to the social work building became a gathering place for friends and family, and anyone wearing a visiting team’s logo was offered a beer,” Weiss writes. 

Things couldn’t have been better, until it was announced that construction for the Moody Center would force Weiss to relocate the tailgate after 13 seasons. “One of our organizers reached out to Chris Del Conte, and CDC himself suggested a patch of grass not far from Bevo Blvd,” Weiss writes. “When our tailgate returned for the 2021 season, we had ourselves a lovely spot to continue the tradition. Now that we’re so close to food trucks, we no longer try to feed everyone at the tailgate, but the fellowship and fun have only continued to grow at our new location.”  

Traveling in Style   

After living together as freshmen, John Stavinoha, BA ’79, Life Member; David Burch, BBA ’78; Brent Holloway, BBA ’79, Life Member; and Rick Smith, ’79, wanted to keep the Longhorn spirit going after graduation by purchasing season tickets for the upcoming 1980 football season. They have now been tailgating together for 20 years. In order to make their tailgate stand out, the group purchased a 1973 Volkswagen painted burnt-orange in 2006 and attach horns on the front for every season. There’s even an air horn that’s rigged to play “The Eyes of Texas.” 

A Family Tradition 

Rich Cuellar’s tailgate had a humble beginning in 1997 with just his kids, their grandparents, a simple hibachi grill, an ice chest, and some chairs. When they finally made the move to the lot on Colorado and 17th, a now popular tailgate spot, their set-up grew to include multiple canopies and chairs, a flagpole, and tables for food. 

After recruiting the help of some friends with welding experience, Cuellar, BS ’91, Life Member, and his group bought a camper trailer and turned it into the ultimate tailgate hangout. They also modified an old grill with fresh paint, firewood basket, metal longhorns, and a flagpole holder. It was rightfully named Big Bertha. 

“We have had birthday parties, as well as Thanksgiving dinner, at the tailgates,” Cuellar writes. “My two girls grew up attending and even helped me mark off the spots the night before. My mom, stepdad, brother, sister-in-law, cousin’s family, as well as other family members and mainly faithful friends, would join every tailgate which made it so special.”  

The Texas Longhorns are entering a new era filled with promise. We can’t wait to see what the next 20 years of tailgating have in store. 

CREDITS: Courtesy John Stavinoha; courtesy Rick Kelly


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