SEC EXPERIENCE: Georgia comes to Columbia for Missouri's SEC football game

Friday, September 7, 2012 | 9:41 a.m. CDT; updated 9:10 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 7, 2012
The University of Georgia team and its fans are arriving in Columbia ahead of Saturday's game. Preparations are going on all around town.

Fans talk 'friendly' SEC rivalries

A look at Athens, Ga.

Georgia fans are getting a taste of Columbia, but what is Athens, Ga., like? One of our reporters found out on our SEC Road Trip in the spring.

Athens residents describe it as a cultural oasis — a high concentration of artists, bands and diverse bars in the middle of rural Georgia. Sometimes its vibrant music scene and the SEC football culture live in harmony, sometimes not.

9 p.m. Georgia fans bark.

Joe Pullen, of Lyerly, Ga., demonstrated this greeting by barking at the passenger of a bright red pickup as it pulled into Cottonwood RV Park. The truck had Bulldogs decals adorning both sides.

Fans of either team might expect a similar greeting walking past Bulldog fans on Saturday.

Barking aside, Pullen said that the rivalry between SEC schools is a friendly one.

MU fan Larry Schroeder agreed. Schroeder, of South Padre Island, Tex., said he appreciated the "congeniality" and "respect" that SEC fans had for each other.

When Schroeder drove his RV to Red Bay, Ala., he wore a Mizzou shirt into a Piggly Wiggly.

"I didn't think I was ever going to get out of there," Schroeder said. "Everyone wanted to come over to talk football and welcome me to the SEC."

Mary Lou Walser, of Athens, Ga., said that there was one personal exception to the amicable SEC rivalry.  

"The (Florida) Gators are obnoxious," Walser said, "but y'all will have fun when everyone else comes to town."

Walser also collected first impressions of Tigers fans. She was surprised by the lack of signs supporting MU as she drove into Columbia on U.S. 63.

"If this game was in Georgia, you'd see all kinds of stuff people put up on the side of the road for the game," Walser said. "Mizzou's laid back."

Walser has gone to games with strep throat and a temperature of 103 degrees; she's been to every game since 1979.

Bob Walser, Mary Lou Walser's husband, shares the same dedication. 

"If I died," Mary Lou Walser said, "he would make sure my funeral wasn't on a game day."

—Chris Long

Restaurants join the tailgate

5:20 p.m. Addison’s and Sophia’s restaurants are teaming up to host a game-day tailgate.

The event will be at 3 p.m. at Sophia’s, 3915 South Providence Road, and fans can watch the game on a 15-by-20-foot TV.

Other restaurants are planning similar tailgates, including Bengal’s Bar & Grill. As with past game days, there will be live music and a parking-lot viewing of the game.

Tailgates aren’t the only way local watering holes are showing their Mizzou pride.

Harpo’s has an all-game day menu prepared for the occasion including “The SEC”, a pulled pork and chopped brisket sandwich.

— Katie Crow and Emily Adams

Hotel offers game-day valet service

4:57 p.m. The Tiger Hotel has a new service for guests this football season — valet parking on every game day through the 2012 season.

For $10, guests can avoid the hassle of battling for metered spots and have their cars safely stowed in parking garages. The hotel has offered valet parking before, but never on a game day.

Due to the number of out-of-state fans attending the game, the hotel is completely booked for MU’s SEC debut and for almost every home game to follow.

Most of the guests this weekend are Georgia fans visiting for the big game, said Calesta Halbert, a hotel employee.

— Katie Crow

Mizzou-Georgia on Saturday, Chiefs-Falcons on Sunday

4:30 p.m. Michael and Mario Cambardella and their pal, Austin Harkey, flew into Columbia Friday ready to party.

The three Georgia alums and Atlanta natives have tickets to both Saturday’s MU-Georgia game and Sunday’s Chiefs-Falcons match-up in Kansas City.

The reason? Michael Cambardella is getting married, and this is bachelor-party weekend.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Harkey said. “It’s a blank canvas, my friend.”

The trio plans to explore Columbia, tailgate and soak in the Southeastern Conference atmosphere, then head to Kansas City after the game on Saturday night.

Scott Chappell was another Georgia fan on the same flight. Chappell said he has visited every SEC stadium, and the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri offered the chance to explore more of the country.

“I was excited because I had another opportunity to go on a road trip, and explain to my wife I gotta complete my mission,” he said, laughing.

Chappell came from Atlanta with Kevin Timmerman, a friend and fellow Georgia fan, and met with Ken McCosh, who had flown in the previous night. The three plan to tailgate on Lowry Mall, where approximately 700 UGA alumni are expected.

“I was expecting a good welcome from the Missouri fans,” Timmerman said. “Hopefully they’re just as avid as most SEC fans, or become as avid.”

Brothers Don and Philip Preston, dressed from head to toe in Bulldog apparel, were equally enthusiastic about the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the conference.

“We’re just looking to have a really good time, man,” Don Preston said. “Turn it loose, have a few adult beverages and enjoy the food and atmosphere.”

As fans arrived, they received pieces of chocolate in the shape of the state of Missouri, courtesy of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

“Everybody’s been really nice,” Preston said. “We heard that in advance.”

— Tripp Stelnicki

For these Georgia fans: First stop, Shakespeare's

2:48 p.m. High school friends Mitch Clarke and Tom Wilson have attended almost every SEC road game since the mid-1990s. So they couldn't miss Missouri's conference debut.

Wilson, who works in real estate in Macon, Ga., , said Missouri fans aren't used to seeing fans travel — but it's an SEC staple.

"Once you're an SEC fan, you follow your team."

Clarke, a Georgia fan and executive editor of The Gainesville (Ga.) Times , flew into St. Louis on Thursday with Wilson and other friends. They toured the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and stopped at the St. Louis Arch.

They rented a car and drove to Columbia on Friday morning. The first stop was Shakespeare's Pizza.

Clarke found the famous eatery after searching online to decide where to eat in Columbia.

"This was the number one place," he said about Shakespeare's. "We thought we had to try it."

Missouri need not fear about fitting into the Southeastern Conference, Wilson said.

"We're fiercely competitive, but once you are in our family, we take care of each other," he said.

They look forward to hosting Missouri next year and said they will be back for future Missouri/Georgia games.

— Tess Malone

Georgia shot on the menu

2:29 p.m. Catering to Missouri's first SEC rivals, bartenders at The Shot Bar on Ninth Street are crafting a Georgia-themed shot for game day.

The Georgia shot mixes bourbon with amaretto, peach liquor and cranberry juice, said co-owners Ryan Walsh.

The Black and Gold shot — jagermeister and goldschlager — is in honor of Mizzou.

The Shot Bar is offering a speed cash bar this weekend for quick take-outs.

Emily Adams

Greektown welcomes brothers and sisters

1:10 p.m. MU fraternities and sororities began to welcome their University of Georgia brothers and sisters on Friday.

Kappa Delta housemother Anne Edwards said the Sigma Phi chapter from the  University of Georgia will be greeted with refreshments.

"We'll have some cookies and some coffee, iced tea and lemonade and try to give some good southern hospitality to the southern girls," she said.

Across town, Phi Kappa Theta fraternity was expecting a contingent of Bulldogs. Pledge educator Thomas Vollmer said 10 to 15 brothers from Georgia were expected to visit Columbia Saturday and Sunday.

Christian Cea, a pledge at Delta Sigma Phi, said 25 to 30 active brothers were coming.

"I'm anticipating different personalities," he said. "Having 25 active from Georgia, I want to see how all this translates."

Benji Rhodi, a senior Delta Sigma Phi member from Georgia had been in town since Thursday.

Rhodi quickly sized up the atmosphere at MU.

"It definitely felt more like an SEC school than I thought it would," he said.

— Sydne Hayman

#MIZSEC a popular topic on social media sites

12:41 p.m. We’re keeping an eye on online conversation about Missouri, Georgia and the SEC this weekend. Here’s some of what we’ve found:

  • The blogging platform Tumblr has several posts with the mizsec tag.
  • There are mizsec-themed Pinterest boards, including this one and this one.
  • A Gridiron Belles blog covers SEC fashion. Here's a post about Mizzou. The author is tweeting at @GridironBelles.
  • Some Georgia fans making plans to meet up in Columbia are using this Facebook event to coordinate. So far, Harpo's and Deja Vu seem to be on the agenda for this group. 
  • “I don't think Mizzou is SEC-ready just yet, but let's just make sure they don't prove or think they are by beating us,” writes one Georgia blogger and fan. He predicts a score of Georgia 30, Mizzou 24.
  • And for real-time chatter, follow the hashtags #mizsec and #mizzou on Twitter.

— Community Outreach Team

New pregame hangout for fans at Tiger Landing

11:58 a.m. Tiger fans have a new habitat before each football game. At Tiger Landing, hometown fans and visitors can get into game day spirit with food, games and campus tours.

Tiger Landing will open three hours prior to game time and is stationed at the Reynolds Alumni Center on Carnahan Quadrangle, 700 Conley Ave.

In the alumni center, attendees can experience the Taste of Mizzou with MU culinary creations such as Tiger brats, Shackburgers, pulled meat and Buck's ice cream. Cash bars are also on site.

A Kids' Zone will have inflatable games on Carnahan Quadrangle.

Tiger fans can win free Mizzou Alumni Association memberships and purchase official Missouri gear. Admission to Tiger Landing is free.

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton encouraged fans to visit Tiger Landing in an email welcoming Georgia fans to Columbia.

"The universities in the Southeastern Conference have gone out of their way to make MU feel welcome in our new SEC family," Deaton said in the email.

"I hope those of you who encounter visitors to our community this weekend and those of you who attend Saturday evening’s game will extend a warm Mizzou welcome to our guests."

Free parking is available at Turner Avenue Garage and Conley Avenue Garage. The event is hosted by The Mizzou Alumni Association.

- Tess Malone

Game day weather

10:30 a.m. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 60s for the 6:45 p.m. kick-off on Saturday. Columbia may see some showers later tonight, but game day weather will be better than last week with clear skies and a high of 73 degrees. Sunday ends the weekend with temperatures in the high 70s, according to the National Weather Service in St. Louis.

Normal temperatures in Columbia during this time of the year are a high of 82 and a low of 62 degrees, similar to normal temperatures in Athens, Ga. While game day weather is a little below normal, those who make the trip to Columbia this weekend will avoid rain expected to hit Athens on Saturday. 

-Emily Kolars

City launches blog to welcome SEC fans

9:30 a.m. The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau launched a gameday blog last month to welcome SEC fans.

The Bureau welcomes new guests to the community every year, but this year will be different with the move to the SEC, director Amy Schneider said.

The blog features game day information for visitors and fans from Columbia. Links include parking maps, shuttle information and events happening around town.

With more visiting fans than previous years, the downtown area will be busier and traffic will be heavy. It is important for locals to be patient and kind to guests, Schneider said.

- Emily Kolars

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Mike Bellman September 8, 2012 | 12:34 p.m.

I don't really care much for sports. But I love SEC fans coming into town to spend money. Let's see if Mike Alden can kick in some extra bucks to the SEC and give us more HOME football games each year. It's cash-o-rific!

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