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Sunday, March 03, 2024

The sweet aroma of fried chicken and hamburgers on the grill fills the air as I walk around campus Saturday morning. It’s here. Football season has arrived. 

I could never forget my first game day at Florida. I had woken up around 9 a.m. to go to a morning breakfast tailgate on the other side of campus, and, as I walked out of my dorm, I was greeted with the rumbling of a generator and a family playing beer pong just 15 feet to my right. 

This was college football at its finest. 

I have learned many tricks of the trade when it comes to the dos and don’ts of tailgating on game day, and I’m here to share my wise words of wisdom from all five years of my college football experience. 

1. Hydrate or die-drate

We’re not fools here, we all know you’re hitting up the best tailgates in town, sometimes underage, and more likely than not, you’re having an adult beverage with some friends. 

Judging from my experience, if you’re only an inexperienced freshman trying to figure out what the day entails, you probably drank little to no water the Friday before. 

In order to have a fun day (I’m saying prayers for you if it’s a 7 p.m. kickoff), I strongly advise you drink lots of water the day before, and it’s probably a good idea to drink some on Saturday, too, in-between your swigs from red Solo cups and shot-gunning all of those canned beers. 

2. Don’t forget to hit up frat row

Yes, I said it. 

It’s the forbidden fruit of most college campuses. And while I don’t recommend you use the frat houses for your restroom needs (refuse to break the seal, please), they do serve up some pretty good food from time to time.

I mean, Theta Chi’s slushies are out of this world and Delt’s wings are house-made. And if you’re looking for some good entertainment, AGR’s live country music is where it is in the south. 

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Needless to say, bring your empty stomachs right to frat row if you’re looking for a full-course meal without breaking your wallet. 

3. Park smart or get towed

It’s easy to hack the system when it comes to parking on game day. If you have a friend living in an apartment complex with guest parking closer to campus, it’s likely those students living far off-campus could use one of their passes for the day.

It’s also an option to just Uber or Lyft to campus, assuming you can afford a $15 expenditure for a whole 3-mile trip to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. 

I advise against parking on the streets, unless you’re inside those pretty white lines and you don’t see a “tow away zone” sign nearby. Most street parking is lifted on the weekends, which is a nice little perk if you can find a spot.

Keep in mind, the buses are usually running, too, and if you live off-campus with some friends, an Uber wouldn’t be too costly to split three or four ways.

Needless to say, if there’s a hint of doubt, it’s probably in your best interest to just find somewhere else to park your car if you’re driving to the game.

4. Don’t forget your smart watch

You’d hate to waste a good game day without your handy dandy smart watch. I mean, it’s not every day you hit 20,000 steps in a single 24-hour period. 

Make sure that sucker is all charged up the night before, so you don’t miss capturing your all-day workout. 

And, hopefully, you’re watch won’t ask you if you’re exercising on a brisk walk to Ben Hill Griffin. We all hate to see that.

5. You’re probably going to need a portable charger at some point

Since Florida has gone all 21st century on us and now delivers our tickets through the official Florida Gators app, you need to make sure your phone has somewhat of a charge prior to kickoff. How else are you supposed to get inside the stadium?

Your best bet is to spend $15 to $20 on one of the heapy-cheapy lipstick-tube-like portable chargers that aren’t too big of a hassle to slip into your back pocket or bra strap so that you can give your phone a little juice after you’re done Snap Chatting away your pre-game adventures. 

6. Make friends with that family down the street with the full setup

There’s always that one family as you’re walking around campus on game day that seems to have it all. 

The fancy generator that’s supplying the power to the three TVs they have on-site streaming other collegiate football games that afternoon and the grand spread of dips and entrees that they have lining the blue linen tablecloth, showcasing their secret recipes that have been a family tradition for generations—you can get in on that.

You should make friends with those people. Scream out a, “Go Gators!” Bond over the communal hatred for “Rocky Top.” Chat about Dan the Man. 

You’ll be BFFs in no time and before you know it, you’re exchanging phone numbers, and they’re inviting you to their tailgate every home game. 

7. Don’t forget the goods (i.e. multiple methods of payment) 

Venmo and Apple’s Cash App only go so far, which is why I’m suggesting you have at least $20 in cash and maybe a debit or credit card on hand.

The new in-app feature that allows fans to order food and drinks from concessions right from their seats is nice and all, but sometimes you just don’t feel like waiting and that cash-only line is calling your name. 

Go get that ice-cold lemonade, you deserve it. 

8. Don’t forget your sunscreen

Floridians know what it feels like to forget their sunscreen firsthand.

A day at the beach, the lake, hanging out in the outdoors and your skin feels fine at first, but when you get home you realize you’ve made a grave mistake.

Everything hurts from head to toe all because you didn’t take 2 minutes out of your life to apply some cream on your arms, legs, torso and face. Ouch.

So, I implore you not to make the same mistake on game day at the Swamp. Have a friend help you, if needed, but go ahead and smack some of the goop on your body. You’ll be thankful for it later.

9. Wear something cute, but definitely comfortable

Yes, we’re in the Swamp, but with that being said no one wants to see anyone else’s swamp butt. 

We all understand the deep tragedies of celebrating college game day in Florida: lots of heat and little personal hygiene. 

I implore you to invest in some deodorant. Girls, I recommend wearing Axe deodorant. Your Dove smells nice and all, but we know it won’t last more than 30 minutes. The Axe will last you all day long and you won’t smell like B.O.

On the other hand, I’m looking at you Florida men, please actually put on the Axe deodorant prior to your outdoor activities. 

10. There’s something to be said about traditions

There are certainly moments here and there where you are walking around Florida’s campus wondering if this will be the last time you get to do something like this with your closest friends, especially those of us in our senior year.

Take those moments in and don’t let go. It’s easy to get sidetracked with all of the little details that truly don’t mean all that much but let everything soak in for what it is. 

Don’t miss out on the Gator Walk. Don’t leave before the third quarter when you get to sing “We Are the Boys from OId Florida” and “I Won’t Back Down.” Get to the game on time for the Two-Bits cheer. 

Relish in the moments. You never know when they’ll be your last. 

Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari. Contact her at

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