I have news for the folks at Florida and Georgia. You can try and rename it. You can ask the game commentators and news people to please not refer to it as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (WLOCP). You can go to whatever lengths you choose to try and change it. Fact is, you can’t. It is what it is and that is one of the greatest spectacles in all of college sports.
If you’ve never been to Jacksonville on the last Saturday in October (or the first Saturday in November) for the Florida-Georgia affair, then you owe it yourself to go. Everbank Field, where the Jacksonville Jaguars play, holds 84,000 people. But parking lots, underpasses, grassy lots, nooks, crannies and every feasible spot to pitch a tent holds thousands more.
Reports estimate that more than 150,000 people show up to the event just to party. Many attendees never make it into the stadium, partying in the parking lot during the game.
It isn’t as refined as The Grove or as irreverent as Death Valley, but it’s unique in and of itself. WLOCP is a party. I mean a party with capital “P.” It’s not for the faint of heart and it isn’t for the squeamish.
I’ve only been to one WLOCP and that was last year. As you can see, it left quite the impression. The people that invited me were all Bull Gators and have been tailgating in the same spot in Lot J for nearly 20 years.
The first wave of party-goers at their tailgate arrived at 5 a.m. to secure the spot. A wave is a good analogy because the people rolled in all day right up to game time. The second wave, of which I was a part, rolled in to the lot at about 8 a.m.. As we arrived, so did the private, rented port-o-potty for our tailgate.
That was clutch, as I found out later. The lines to use the facilities in the parking lots are historically and horrifically long. A long day of drinking and 100,000 people makes for some interesting sights when nature calls. In fact, the teenagers at our tailgate were charging the young coeds unmentionable requests just to use our potty.
The most impressive thing was watching the parking lot fill up throughout the day. When we arrived, only the perimeter on the lot was occupied. That’s where the best spots are located. At some point, I looked around and the parking lot was totally filled. All I could see was a sea of people in every direction.
Our tailgate had food and beverages as far as the eye could see. We had a DJ spinning for the crowd.
The crowd. I don’t think I can even put the crowd into words. It’s something you just have to see. Experience it for yourself. It is reveling, debauchery and fun all together culminating in … oh yeah. The game.
I almost forgot there’s a game as well. Crazy things happen on the field. It must be because of Halloween. You have the unforgettable Run Lindsay Run. Who could forget Jack Youngblood’s Rip, Strip and Grip? The original Fourth and Dumb by Florida’s Doug Dickey? The 2007 Gator Stomp when Georgia stormed the field on its first touchdown?
Maybe this year’s game fits the bill too. A maligned Florida team with “no shot” to win against the SEC’s second-ranked rush defense did the unthinkable the day after Halloween. The Gators ran for 418 yards and in the process crushed the hopes of the 11th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs and their playoff dreams.
From start to finish, it’s an event that any college football fan should see. And don’t forget the game.