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Generations keep tailgating legacies alive

Thursday, October 13, 2011 | 4:10 p.m. CDT
Kevin Clark sets up a tent before the Western Illinois game on Sept. 17. Clark's family and friends enjoy spending time with each other before MU games.

Meagan Roth and Jack Watson are getting married on Homecoming weekend next year, and their friend Kevin Clark is upset.

“We tell people not to get married on football weekends,” he says.

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Roth and Watson defend their scheduled nuptials, which will take place during a Friday ceremony in St. Louis, saying Clark can easily make it back in time to cheer on the Tigers.

These defenses and counter-defenses recently took place at Clark’s home away from home: his tailgate. He was pregaming with a crowd of about 15 people under a tent near Hearnes Center. Before MU faced off against Western Illinois on Sept. 17, tots ran amid twenty- and thirty-somethings and baby boomers.

Clark and his friend Jon Allen, affectionately known as “Goose,” sipped beers and reminisced about their favorite MU games, as well as the ones that didn’t turn out so well. However, there are two games they don’t talk about, referred to simply as “Colorado fifth down” (1990: Colorado was awarded an extra down and won by two points) and “Nebraska kick ball” (1997: an almost-fumbled ball was kicked upward just before it would have fallen “dead” on the field, and Nebraska won in overtime).

Hickman and Rock Bridge High School alumni, respectively, Clark and Allen started tailgating together their senior year of high school. While in college at Central Missouri State University (now University of Central Missouri), the two made the hour and 15 minute trek back to Columbia for every home game.

Scott Watson, a longtime friend of Goose and Kevin, and Goose’s father, Lynn Allen, often join this tailgating crowd.

Watson is the older brother of Jack, whose wedding is causing Clark’s heartache regarding the tailgate for this next year’s Homecoming game. Although Clark teased his friend for scheduling his "I dos" so close to game day, Jack says Clark was like a big brother during the years they spent growing up together in Columbia.

Clark’s wife, Emily, remembers being picked up from dance lessons in her leotard in time for tailgating. She and Kevin both remember going to look at house decorations as children, and their parents still tailgate together.

Sometimes they “cruise over” to their parents’ festivities, and occasionally they combine celebratory forces.

The Clarks didn’t start dating until after college, but Kevin jokingly pegs a particular Fourth of July in the late ’80s as the moment when his wife fell in love with him. Emily rolled her eyes at his comment. She was five years old at the time; he was eight.

Emily explained that, though tailgating is fun, it’s also tiring. “It’s a whole Saturday,” she says. She’s a trooper, though; because their second child is due in February, Emily nursed caffeine-free Coke and water at the most recent tailgate.

Emily’s best friend, Megan Fewell, played matchmaker when Kevin and Emily first got together. Megan’s brother, Wes Fewell, is another good friend of Kevin’s. Fewell has a ceremonial Homecoming robe that he will don come Saturday. The ’60s-era garment makes a hilarious appearance every year.

Shortly before heading to Faurot Field, Goose scooped up his niece, Reese Cook, who sported a jean skirt with Mizzou ribbon sewn along the hem, a black shirt with a gold “M” on the front and shoes adorned with silver glitter.

As game time approached, Reese crawled headfirst into her stroller. She turned around and faced forward, ready for the game, and to Faurot she went. With this close crowd, it’s possible Reese will someday be pushing her own baby’s stroller toward the stands at Stadium and Providence roads.


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