KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – You’ll find gameday tradition in full force well before you get into Neyland Stadium. People make a day of tailgating because the Orange and White Nation experience can’t be contained by the time between the first kickoff and the last whistle.
One pair of big time Vols fans knows what it takes to properly tailgate.
Lisa Heidmann was born and raised in Knoxville. She graduated from the University of Tennessee and has always been an avid fan. She put out part of her tailgating spread at her home in West Knoxville as a sort of dry run for gameday.
“We make sure to get the grill. We get our tents. We would have our tables. We would have of course several coolers,” she said.
Heidmann got into tailgating 10 years ago thanks to her former coworker, another lifelong fan named Jamie Lanham.
“We just said, ‘Hey wouldn’t it be great,’ and it didn’t matter what time it was. Six o’clock in the morning we’d meet,” Lanham said.
Heidmann and Lanham say an early start to the gameday eats is one thing novice tailgaters miss out on.
“It’s a rookie move not to go with breakfast,” Lanham said with a laugh. “Rookie, rookie mistake. You got to have breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day.”
Another way they step up their game is a theme to match the opponent.
“Say if it’s the LSU game, we do a shrimp gumbo. We would set up the week before and we’d do the whole game around that,” said Heidmann.
“Like if we play Georgia, the Georgia Bulldogs, we’ll have hot dogs or brats. If we play the Gators we try to get some gator meat,” said Lanham. “I know next year we’ll be at the Panthers Stadium and we’ll be playing the Mountaineers so I guess we’ll have to have some Mountain Dew – the real and the soft drink.”
They have Big Orange grilling tools, including a Power T branding iron that’s supposed to be used for steaks or maybe burgers.
“I think I’ve used this a couple of times. I would not recommend it using it on yourself,” Heidmann joked. “It’s been tempting to use it on some Gator fans,” Lanham added.
This crew knows how to tailgate for a crowd and still pay attention to the tiny details.
“We’re going to have about 50 people at the first home game tailgate. It’s going to be, of course, on a much larger scale than this for sure. So I’ve already got my nails painted, so I am ready to go,” said Heidmann. “It matters just from little stuff to you know the big stuff, But then it matters to the dress, the shoes, the nails.”
They’re raising money for charity with the home opener tailgate, just one sign of how the traditions go way beyond the field.
“I’m very thankful that I’m blessed to have her as one of my best friends,” Heidmann said of Lanham.
“My favorite memories are watching ball games with my dad. He’s passed away and I swear up and down that when he passed, he was Peyton Manning’s guardian angel,” said Lanham. “My mother has dementia and one of her favorite players that she can remember is Josh Dobbs. She loves that kid.”
Love is a crucial part of the Orange and White Nation, along with plenty of spirit.