It was 1998 when happenstance and Hokie Hospitality crossed paths to lead us to what we today refer to as the Clubhouse Tailgate. First the happenstance, 1998 found Tailgate originals Jim, Tom, Dean and Larry all assigned parking in “the Cage” a large fenced in lot used for resident student parking. Jim, Tom and Dean were engaged in proper tailgate activities (grilling meat while consuming adult beverages) out of the back of a pickup truck when Larry and his dogs (Tailgate Rottweiler I, Turbo and Tailgate Cattle Dog I, Sydney) happened to pass by. It was at this point where Hokie Hospitality entered the picture as an offering of grilled meat (to the dogs) led to discussion and then to the reciprocal offer of the use of the restroom facilities in the little 18 foot camper that Larry was using at that time. Over the rest of the 1998 season Jim, Tom and Dean began parking closer and closer to Larry’s little camper, by the end of the season the four were regularly tailgating together.
In 2002 happenstance and Hokie Hospitality again intervened. Now relocated to public parking, our growing gang noted with admiration the tailgating efforts of a gentleman supporting a substantial gathering of students with his home grill, transported on the back of his pickup truck. Over the course of that season Clota and his daughter Rebecca moved their operation closer and closer to the 1971 Airstream (christened “the Clubhouse”) that had replaced Larry’s little camper. Hospitality took hold and the tailgates were merged!
In the years since then the Tailgate has survived multiple changes in parking policy (always a threat to split folks up) and has now relocated to the Airport Lot. The Tailgate has also continued to grow, anchored by the iconic old Airstream we now occupy more than 20 RV spaces! Our original core members Jim, Tom and Larry have been joined by Ivan, Mike, Michelle and Gary, Mary and Erroll, Bev, Rhonda and Thomas, Phyllis and Gene, Sue Carol and Keith, Gina and Tom, Kim, Karen and Bill, Rhonda and a host of others who now carry on our tradition of Hokie Hospitality.
The Tailgate is always present at Virginia Tech home games, and also travels to most away games, championships and bowls. We have tailgated graduations, and we tailgated Virginia Tech’s official entry to the ACC (we provided the knife that the Commissioner used to cut the cake!). We have twice adorned the front page of the Roanoke Times, and have been featured in multiple news broadcasts and in a recent documentary about Virginia Tech football fans. We have our own web-site and have produced a cookbook that has become a favorite at many tailgate tables. The pregame toast once shared by Jim, Tom Dean and Larry has grown into our pregame “Communion” routinely shared with 40-50 Tailgaters (our largest in excess of 100), and now practiced by other tailgates as well as ours.
While other large tailgates at Virginia Tech have come and gone, we have held together and grown. Today a “typical’ Tailgate will feature 5 decades of Virginia Tech graduates gathering together to enjoy the fellowship and Hokie Hospitality that has always been the hallmark of the Clubhouse Tailgate.