The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party may not be the preeminent game in college football, nor is it usually the biggest game the week it’s played.
But it is what college football is all about: two neighboring schools whose fans don’t like each other and make the tailgate party – and, indeed, the entire weekend – an annual happening for people on both sides.
With the game as the rallying point.
Oh yes, the game. Georgia-Florida. Usually, the SEC East Championship is on the line and occasionally a National Championship – “Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott!!! – but mainly, this is about 12-month bragging rights between rivals. And a reason to drink to it, win or lose.
The game is always played on the Saturday of Halloween weekend – Nov. 2 in 2019 – at 3:30 p.m., and always on CBS. That means the tailgate party starts at about 9 a.m., and it goes until after kickoff.
It earned its nickname when a sportwriter made his way through the mayhem and, once he arrived in the press box, declared to his fellow scribes “that’s the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party out there!”
One reason it lives up to that nickname is because it’s traditional for about three times as many people to be at the tailgate party than have tickets to the game. They go because, well, they know a good party when they hear of one. During the game, they pile into the bars at The Landing, just a short walk from the tailgating area.
The scene has been going on for decades and therefore, transcends generations of fans on both sides. Your grandfather and grandmother were there, your parents were there and, eventually your sons and daughters will be there, too.
Even the location is perfect. Jacksonville might be in Florida but people from across the state line actually consider it “Georgia south.” During the rest of the year, you’ll run into more Dawg fans than Gator fans in Jax.
The setup is great, too. There’s a huge open space between the stadium and the Jacksonville Landing on the river that runs through the city. It’s ideal for tailgating.
This could change somewhat in the future as the Jacksonville Jaguars owner wants to develop the property, but there will always be a place to drink a few cocktails before this game.
It’s Dawgs and Gators, and a lot of cocktails, too.