COLUMBIA — A week from Saturday, Columbia residents will wake up to an unusual sight.
"Starting about 10 a.m., you'll see nothing but Georgia," Bulldogs fan Mark Ray said.
That means Georgia grills, Georgia trailers, all "decked out in red and black with a big old 'G' on it," Ray said. He plans to travel to Columbia with a few hundred of his closest friends when the Bulldogs play the Tigers.
On Sept. 8, the University of Georgia will welcome Missouri to the Southeastern Conference. Bulldogs fans plan to make their presence known in Columbia.
"It's y'all's first SEC game, and quite frankly, we want to show you what the SEC is all about," Ray said.
"You have four months every year that all the fans wait for," he said. "You may not see these folks the other eight months of the year, but during the season it's like a family reunion every game."
Fans save their vacation days to travel to away games, Ray said. He and 300 other tailgaters swap recipes on a fan page online. Ray acknowledged it'll be tough for Georgia fans being in Columbia for the first time but said he trusts that groups will have their spots roped off and their grills going early enough to have a table full of food ready by 1 p.m.
"You don't have to be in anybody's tailgate — the food's just all lined up, ready to share," Ray said.
Not all of the Georgia-themed events that weekend share the same generous policy of admission.
The Missouri Theatre will host a private reception for University of Georgia President Michael F. Adams' delegation the night before the game, said John Murray, assistant director of Business Services at MU.
On game day, more than 700 Georgia alumni will descend on MU's Lowry Mall, said event coordinator Frances Beusse.
"It's the largest official tailgate we've ever staffed," said Robin Whiteley, director of sales and event planning at the University Club of MU and University Catering. Twelve to 18 of Whiteley's employees will staff the event, she said.
Lowry Mall will not be closed to the public, Murray said. A portion of the mall will be tented off, and only those who have purchased wristbands for $40 — presumably all Bulldogs fans — will be admitted to the tented area.
The wristband gets entrants unlimited food and drinks, including alcoholic beverages for those of legal age. Tailgaters can fill up on hotdogs with coleslaw on hoagies, pesto pasta salad and a gourmet nacho bar. Whiteley predicts this last item will be the most popular. "It has a little bit of something for everyone," she said.
Everyone, that is, who purchased a wristband before the event sold out Wednesday. The rest of us, Ray said, should expect "a lot of drinking, a lot of carrying on, a lot of 'Go Dawgs, Sic 'Em!'"
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.