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SEC EXPERIENCE: Georgia fans share first impressions of Columbia on game day

Saturday, September 8, 2012 | 11:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:57 a.m. CDT, Sunday, September 23, 2012

Georgia, Missouri fans bond over football talk

Bobby Bierk, left, of Oregon, Nick Aleto, of Columbia, Christopher Davis, of Arizona, and Josh Dix, of Columbia, met each other on Lowry Mall before the game Saturday.

2:45 p.m. Bobby Bierk flew from Oregon to Florida to help Georgia fan Christopher Davis move to Arizona. But they made a detour through Columbia for Georgia's game against Missouri.

"It's 22 hours out of the way, and it's a 22-hour trip," Davis said. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

Davis, 21, was wearing a Georgia cape in preparation for the game. But he had his doubts about whether Georgia would win because the team was missing half of its defense.

While visiting on Lowry Mall, the duo met Missouri fans Nick Aleto, 21, and Josh Dix, 21.

The four men talked about the teams' players and strengths and then all left the mall together.

— Gwen Girsdansky

Sorority opens parking to fellow sister, Georgia fan

Julie Price, left, and her husband, Don, of Tiger, Ga., pose with Runell and Mike Cheek, of Athens, Ga. The four have been tailgating together for more than 30 years.

2:30 p.m. Julie Price, 68, walked up to Missouri's Alpha Chi Omega house, the same sorority she belonged to while attending Georgia, and asked whether anyone there knew of somewhere to park.

The house mother moved her own car to make space for Price's.

"The people here are unbelievable," said Price, of Tiger, Ga.

Price, her husband Don, and their tailgating companions of 30 years, Runell and Mike Cheek, have spent the majority of their time in Columbia talking to Missouri fans. They said they have been continuously thanked for coming to Columbia and told Missouri is really excited to be part of the SEC.

"They have rolled out the red carpet," Don Price said.

The group said they hope Georgia fans will be as welcoming and gracious when Missouri goes to Athens.

"These are the friendliest people we've seen at the SEC," Mike Cheek said.

— Gwen Girsdansky

Georgia family boasts longstanding tailgating tradition

Bennett Craft, left, of Savannah, Ga., stands with family friend Mark Gunther and his father, Joe Craft.

2:15 p.m. Joe Craft, of Savannah, Ga., has been tailgating Georgia games with his son since the mid-1970s.

Craft and his son, Bennett, flew into Columbia on Thursday. On Friday, they were joined by longtime friend Mark Gunther, who has also been tailgating Georgia games for almost 40 years. 

"We tailgate at all the away games," Gunther said.

So far, they said, they've had a great time because Missouri fans have been welcoming them into the city and the campus.

"We hope to return the favor when they come to Athens," Bennett Craft said. His father said Missouri shouldn't have any worries moving into the SEC.

"You'll all fit in with the SEC," Joe Craft said.

— Gwen Girsdansky

Former MU student plans to root for Georgia

Tom Carter, left, of Atlanta, and Frank Violand, of Fenton, were touring MU together Saturday. Both were rooting for the Bulldogs.

1:30 p.m. Although he attended MU as a hospitality management major, Frank Violand said Georgia blood is in his veins.

"I was born and raised a Bulldog," said Violand, who now lives in Fenton.

Violand, 21, was getting a chance Saturday to give his uncle, Tom Carter, a tour of Columbia. They were walking toward Francis Quadrangle, chatting with each other and smiling.

Carter, 49, is from Atlanta, and this is his first time visiting Columbia.

"It's a great campus," Carter said. "Beautiful. The people are friendly. Great college town."

They ate at Waffle House — which Carter called a staple of Southern food — at 3 a.m. Saturday. Later that morning, they went to Kaldi’s Coffee and then headed over to the FieldHouse to have a few beers.

Carter said he thinks Missouri will fit in well with the SEC.

"Georgia respects Missouri," Carter said. "They've got a great team."

— Brian Ransom

Georgia fan takes pictures of campus

1:15 p.m. Will Abney of Athens, Ga., was taking photographs for fun around campus Saturday afternoon.

He orbited the tiger statue, periodically crouching and snapping pictures before pacing a little farther down and shooting a few more.

Abney, 34, said he drove 11.5 hours to get to the football game: 9.5 to his hotel in St. Louis on Friday and then an additional two hours to Columbia on Saturday. He said he didn't mind the drive, though, because the views along the way were pretty.

"One of my bucket-list goals is to visit all the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) football stadiums," Abney said.

Abney said he has tickets to all of Georgia's games this year except the one at South Carolina, during which he has a church activity to attend.

So far, Columbia has been nice, he said.

"Most of the people are really friendly — you know, not trying to be jerks or anything," Abney said.

On a recommendation from a friend, he ate a double burger and waffle fries at Mort's in the MU Student Center on Saturday.

Before he leaves Columbia, Abney said he plans to visit Shakespeare's Pizza.

— Brian Ransom

Fan calls experience flying into Columbia 'refreshing'

1 p.m. Martin Burnett, a Georgia graduate from Atlanta, said flying into the Columbia Regional Airport from the Atlanta hub felt "refreshing" — like flying into someone's backyard. 

"I love it," Burnett said of Columbia. "I think it's going to be a great fit for the SEC."

One of the differences between Columbia and Athens on game day, he said, is that Columbia has free parking. Burnett said he wished he'd known more about where to go in Columbia before coming, but he enjoyed seeing the campus.

"My first impression walking around campus is, 'This is great,'" he said.

 — Allison Prang

Georgia fan opts to cook own food

12:50 p.m. Pat Goss doesn’t plan to eat at any Columbia restaurants.

“This is tailgating. We’re eating right here,” Goss said.

She fried up bacon, eggs, hash browns and tomatoes with a side of biscuits for breakfast Saturday morning. She planned to barbeque brats and hamburgers accompanied by potato salad, coleslaw, chips, dips and lemon bars in the afternoon.

Tailgating is different in the SEC, Goss said. “We start on Friday at latest.”

Goss, of Elberton, Ga., travels to all of Georgia's SEC away games.

She and her friends left for Columbia last Sunday. They stopped in Hannibal and St. Louis along the way.

Goss said the hospitality here has been outstanding, but she isn’t surprised.

“Every town in the SEC always has nice people.”

— Tess Malone

Georgia fans look forward to returning to Columbia

12:40 p.m. Georgia alumni Jeff Brown, Allen Kennedy and Tracy McFarland already look forward to coming back to Columbia for future SEC games.

The friends flew into St. Louis for the weekend. They travel to almost all of Georgia's SEC games and wanted to attend the Missouri-Georgia game because “it’s new,” Brown said.

“We love going to college towns,” McFarland said. “It makes you feel young.”

This college town reminds them of one more close to home.

“Columbia is a lot like Athens,” Brown said.

The men went out to Harpo's and The Penguin Piano Bar on Friday night.

Brown thinks MU fans need to travel to away games in order to feel a part of the SEC.

“You’ve all hit the lottery getting into the SEC,” he said.

— Tess Malone

Fans show off American spirit

Jack Weston, of Cincinnati, and Ryan McCarty, of Atlanta, show off their American spirit while tailgating before the Georgia game Saturday.

12:30 p.m. Everyone in the RV parking lot pointed to Jack Weston and Ryan McCarty.

“Have you seen the guys wearing the flags?” Kay Donaldson said.

Dressed in full-body spandex suits emblazoned with an American-flag pattern, Weston and McCarty stood out amidst the sea of red and gold.

“We love America. We like to have a good time,” Weston said.

“Everyone can get behind America,” McCarty said.

Weston got behind the SEC even though he is from Cincinnati and attended Miami University. 

“The SEC is the best football conference and has the most passionate fans," he said. "They travel well, too."

McCarty was the only one from Georgia out of the group of five friends in Columbia for the game. However, he flew to Cincinnati to drive down with the friends.

The group attends one game every year, previously traveling to Athens, Ga., and Oxford, Miss.

“We wanted to hit one of the newer schools this year,” McCarty said.

They rented an RV in Indianapolis.

“We don’t really know what we’re doing,” Weston said.

Weston said Missouri needs to catch up with the SEC. The SEC cooks a lot more and even the fashion is different, he said.  Despite his attire, he said, “It’s like Sunday best in the SEC.”

The friends went out to Quinton’s and Harpos last night and had Gumby's pizza at 3 a.m.

The friends said they are happy to see more of Columbia tonight, though.

“This is the best vacation day you could take all year,” Weston said.

— Tess Malone

Georgia fan says MU tailgating leaves something to be desired

12:30 p.m. Georgia graduate and fan David Packard said MU needs to work harder to have SEC-worthy tailgating.

"You all still don't understand what SEC tailgating is about it," he said. "It's game day. There's only six a year."

But a common compliment from several Georgia fans Saturday was about Columbia's hospitality.

"I love the town," Packard said. "I love the people. The hospitality is great."

— Allison Prang

Columbia reminds one Georgia fan of Athens

12:30 p.m. Georgia fan David Bringman, of Savannah, Ga., echoed a sentiment on Saturday that many Columbia residents and Missouri fans have been hearing for months.

"SEC football is life," he said, as he stood in a group of fans wearing black and gold. In Georgia, he said people are either Georgia fans or Georgia Tech fans — you pick.

In terms of the SEC, there's one thing Missouri fans have yet to master, he said.

"They need to learn how to tailgate," he said. "Tailgating starts at sun up."

But as a city, Columbia fits right in.

"Beautiful city," Bringman said of Columbia. "Very reminiscent of Athens."

— Allison Prang

Fan predicts Missouri's stadium to grow

12:20 p.m. Kay Donaldson predicts The Zou will have to grow in order to accommodate visiting SEC fans.

“Fans follow their teams” and come regardless of whether they have tickets or not, she said.

Donaldson of Dublin, Ga., flew into St. Louis yesterday, arriving in Columbia in time for lunch at Shakespeare’s Pizza.

She attends two SEC away games every year.

Donaldson said she is used to Southern hospitality and has found it in abundance in Columbia.

“We love it. People have been so cordial.”

— Tess Malone

Georgia fan attempts to visit each SEC stadium

12:15 p.m. Jon Carter’s goal is to see every SEC stadium.

The fifth-grade teacher left Athens, Ga., with eight family friends on Thursday to see The Zou.

“We’re ready to welcome Missouri to the SEC in a proper way,” he said.

Carter has been welcomed by Columbia residents, too. He said Columbia residents were “very nice and respectful.”

He and his friends went to the Broadway Diner on Saturday morning.

“Miss Eunice really treated us very kindly,” Carter said.

Carter said the atmosphere in Columbia is a lot calmer than most SEC games.

“It’s weird not being hated,” he said, though he expects that to change once the teams develop a history.

— Tess Malone

Couple takes first SEC road trip

Noon Debbie and Jeff Dudacek of Atlanta, had never taken an SEC road trip before coming to Columbia this weekend. The couple traveled with their neighbors, and the group started the 13.5 hour road trip Thursday.

They arrived in Columbia on Friday morning, and they were fourth in line at the RV lot later that day.

Although Debbie Dudacek said they are “newbies” to SEC road trips, it was important to attend this game because “Missouri joining the SEC is kind of a big deal.”

They dined at Flat Branch Pub & Brewing on Friday night after their nephew, a recent MU graduate, recommended it. The line was two hours long and included a mix of Georgia and Missouri fans, but it was worth the wait for the Italian and mushroom pizza, Debbie Dudacek said.

“Everybody was cheering back and forth."

The Dudaceks said they have found Columbia residents to be friendly and welcoming.

“This will be a good rivalry,” Debbie Dudacek said.

— Tess Malone

Fans set up morning tailgate in Peace Park

9:15 a.m. Derrick Hardy sat reading a newspaper in Peace Park on Saturday morning. Around him stood two large tables and a folding chair. A bean bag game was set up off to the side.

The Georgia alum — from Monroe, Ga., — was out early, per recommendations of a close friend. It was his first trip to Columbia.

"From what I've seen, it's really nice," Hardy said. "The campuses have similar architecture and landscape."

He said he also admired Francis Quadrangle and the MU Columns.

Hardy doesn't travel to many away games but stayed with a friend who lives in Columbia for today's game.

Allison Lewis


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Comments

Mike Bellman September 8, 2012 | 6:00 p.m.

MU has systematically reduced, suppressed or flat out kicked away the "tailgate culture" for nearly 20 years.

From forbidding lot and vehicle tailgating, banning reactor field, blocking off all the medians and side lots around Faurot field, gating off empty lots, building the MU Arena, MU has made it very clear that tailgating is to be done somewhere else. If it's not a sanctioned activity, it's too bad. At least that's one outsider's opinion. I've never attended a tailgate, so I feel my observation is less-biased.

NO tailgating on campus? Ok whatever, fine. Except that a visitor from another city, will not know where the tailgating is going to be. From some people's perspective we're as tame as BYU.

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