There’s tailgating and then there’s tailgating with style. The latter applies to game day in Columbia, South Carolina. While the random t-shirt and cargo shorts can be found anywhere these days, the Gamecock fans and students come dressed to impress on Saturdays for what is easily one of the most fashionable tailgate scenes in the country. ESPN has even noticed, once comparing a fall Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium to a Vogue magazine spread.
“You don’t just wear a sweatshirt and jeans and go watch some football,” explains Dayna Cantelmi, Marketing & Communications Associate with Experience Columbia SC, the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau. “You wear your best black dress and garnet beads and heels, and the guys in fraternities are wearing bow ties and khakis.”
In fact, everything is kicked up a notch in Columbia as the Gamecock faithful take painstaking care to ensure everything from the tailgate decorations, the food, and the overall vibe has a sense of style, sophistication, and hospitality reflecting the unique personality of South Carolina’s capital city.
“Columbia a very approachable, friendly, welcoming city, so it is very common to have folks that are University of South Carolina fans that are tailgating and have their season passes inviting people from the opposing team over to tailgate with them,” says Andrea Mensink, Director of Communications for Experience Columbia SC.
The food at a Gamecock tailgate is vintage South Carolina, full of pulled pork barbecue – always – always pork here; never beef – topped with golden, mustard-based barbecue sauces. Pimento cheese is also a regional specialty with almost every restaurant and deli in Columbia offering up their own take.
Perhaps no tradition is as unique to South Carolina as the Cockaboose railroad. A group of 22 garnet red railcars lined up outside Williams-Bryce Stadium, these Cockabooses represent the ultimate in luxury tailgating. Some are even rumored to be festooned with custom-made crystal chandeliers, for instance.
“They’re very tricked out and a lot of them are passed down through families,” says Mensink. “They are very expensive to purchase, but it is the tailgating experience. If you have one, keep it in the family.”