Red vs. blue — off the field: Tailgating Ute style includes lots of food, visiting and red

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 11 2012 5:47 p.m. MDT

Ute fans party before the football game at the University of Utah on Thursday, August 30, 2012.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Within a block of Rice-Eccles Stadium on University of Utah home football game days, there is a parking lot that has more than just parked cars.

It is crammed with awnings, fifth-wheelers and trailers — some brightly painted to show their red and black Ute pride — most with grills, tables and chairs. There are some buses and even a hearse, with lettering across the windows. People pack into the area amid the smells of grilling food.

Oh, there's also a boat with pirate ship-style sails and hull that has a red flag with a U on the very top.

Welcome to the Pit and tailgating — Ute style.

Tailgaters and their equipment have spilled over into the adjacent lots. Others tuck into the available grassy spots and parking lots around the stadium.

Robert Hill of Centerville and his family were on the edge of the parking lot under an awning with chairs and coolers and were there four hours before the game against Northern Colorado started.

Their tailgating tradition started with Hill’s late brother, Steven, more than 15 years ago when they got season tickets to the Ute games. Most of their children have grown up with the pre-game festivities of food and armchair analytics that now goes to the third generation, which was tossing around a football while the noise from the nearby stadium grew louder. While they had burgers and hot dogs before the Northern Colorado game, “we’ve done everything,” Hill said of their tailgating fare.

“We’ve been pulling up here and adding a little bit more each time,” Hill said. “We’re excited for Utah.”

They’ve got a trailer fixed up to watch away games in, as soon as they get the cable/satellite network hooked up.

With five awnings and more tables and chairs than fit under them, Richard Hirschi’s group started with about 10 to 15 people more than a decade or two ago and now has grown to more than 80. And they are there hours before game time.

“It’s just grown,” Hirschi said. They’ve taken road trips to away games and tailgated there. And it’s the camaraderie with friends and fellow Ute fans that keeps them coming back.

They had a buffet set up that would rival any church potluck. Pulled pork or beef, deep-fried turkeys, ribs and a roast pig have graced their buffet table at one time or another.

They send out an email to all involved and make sure all of the food assignments are covered in the growing group of friends and acquaintances, said Jared Thomas, a business owner from West Jordan.

For the past two decades, Mike Kibble of Cottonwood Heights has been meeting a couple dozen friends and car-pooling to the home games in a large bus painted red.

The bus was originally blue but was quickly repainted a bright red. “Utah by 5” is on the front. An awning has been added along with a grill built into the side.

Before the Northern Colorado game, they were sitting around the bus having hamburgers and hot dogs, along with traditional condiments and side dishes. They rotate who is in charge of food and have had a variety of dishes through the years, including pulled pork, chili, pizza, Chinese food and pork loin.

“We’ve talked about going out of state, but it gets six miles to the gallon,” Kibble said.

Their pre-game tradition of tailgating and going to the game is one they aren’t planning to change anytime soon.

“It’s just socializing with 30 people,” Kibble said of why the tradition keeps going. “That’s what it’s all about.”

RED CREAM SODA FLOAT

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