Tailgate of the Week: Idaho

By Jennifer DiMeo | 2 Comment(s) | Posted

Our Roving Tailgater, Jenn DiMeo, is out and about before home games looking for Chapel Hill's best tailgate. Before the Idaho game, she found a brave group of tailgaters who have been tailgating from the same spot at the Craige Deck for years. If your group would like to be part of our next "research," send Jenn an emailAfter the Georgia Tech game, you'll be able to vote on which of our weekly winners is your favorite. And the winner of that vote gets a fully catered tailgate at the Nov. 24 Maryland game courtesy of McCall's Barbecue and Seafood

About the Tailgate Party:
Ted Forbes, Dempsey Watson, Dan Hamrick, Reggie Safrit, and Tommy Mason are just a few of the many characters who make up this amazing gathering of hard-core tailgaters. The group covers North Carolina from the beach to the mountains, South Carolina, Chicago, Texas, and many places in between. Scott Cannon, from Texas, travels in for two back-to-back home games per season. This season that happened to be the Idaho and Virginia Tech games.  You just never know when any other of their long distance tailgaters will show up: Bill Spann from Seattle, Bob Heyman and Bill Murray from Chicago, or Lee Califf from the DC area to name a few.  The list of local names seems to go on forever..., Robert Hodge, Harry Gale, Larry Smith, Robert Greene, Milo Hoffman, Bob Arrington, Johnny Long, Jeff Cox, Roy Everett, Dick Caudle, Tom McCoy, Tommy Kirby, Chris Gower, Andy Whaley, Eric Englebardt, Dan Phillips, Billy Brame, Bo Tate,  Adam Powell, Rico Twitty, Chuck Killian, Doug Thigpin, John Elliot, Tim Heffner, Ernest Sutton, Curtis Hill, or Steve Luxton might be seen at any given tailgate. 

I had to chuckle when they told me the tailgate had 10-15 MDs who graduated from UNC, but that it was the Tar Heel lawyers that outnumbered everyone.  While any given tailgate could have 30-100 people, given the subpar weather for Idaho, I would estimate they had over 40 tailgaters when I arrived. My personal favorite was Reggie Safrit’s mom, Betty Plummer, a sweet lady who was headed to the game even with the unfavorable weather conditions. Upon meeting me, she proudly smiled, sharing that her son brought her to one game a year and she was heading to Kenan... as the rain was pouring down.

Setting up a Prime Location:
The tailgate is on the second level of Craige Deck spanning the deck’s entire length of the side facing Craige North dorm. The far end of the tailgate includes a port-a-john that was lobbied for by one of the tailgaters. Other Craige Deck tailgaters make sure to stop by and thank Ted Forbes for his hard work.

Eleven Seasons and Running:
Tailgating has been a long running affair since 2001. The guys take great pride in their tailgates and organization of them.

Tailgate Keys to the Game:
The location. Even though it was non-stop raining, the tailgaters were covered while not actually being inside the parking deck.

This Tailgate’s Specialty:
No matter what the main course, the tailgate would not be complete without BBQ and Brunswick Stew. Only the stew has to be from Parker’s. One of the tailgaters’ dad grew up with the Parkers’ brothers, so they consider the stew somewhat of a family speciality.  

More than Just a Game:
The main course is something that is taken extremely serious and there is great meaning behind the decisions that the non-tailgater would probably never understand. For NC State, they plan on having ribs. The Murphy Center at NCSU was built on hog money (fun fact from the tailgate), so it is only acceptable that pork ribs would be served. Whenever South Carolina is the opponent, only chicken will do before a game against the gamecocks.

Best Tailgating Memory:
This is my third week of roving and I was so excited to hear the story of Tommy Mason saving a fan's life. The stage was set several times increasing the anticipation as I roved down tailgate lane, but no one would actually tell the story. Finally it was unanimously agreed upon; Tommy had to be located to tell the story. No one else could do it justice. Once Tommy was found and introductions made, I got the cliff notes version of the long anticipated story...

It was four years ago before the South Carolina game.  Tommy’s wife and daughters were ready to head into the game from the Dean Dome lot. Tommy handed his wife three tickets and off she and the girld went with the agreement Tommy would meet them inside closer to kick-off. Later, from the gate, Tommy got a  frantic phone call from his wife.  She only had one of the tickets. He quickly told her to head back to the tailgate at the Dean Dome and they will figure something out. Tommy decided he and his youngest daughter would just head to Franklin Street to watch the game and his wife and older daughter could go to the game. While waiting for his wife to return, he decided to retrace her steps in case the tickets fell out of her pocket and no one picked them up (highly unlikely).

As Tommy opened the door to the Craige Deick stairwell, he heard frantic screaming for a doctor.  Tommy, being an emergency room doctor, figured it was someone intoxicated who did something stupid. He was completely surprised when he spotted the commotion around a 62 year old healthy looking male. It was obvious to Tommy the man was in cardiac arrest. He quickly jumped into go mode after carefully placing his cigar on top of his drink. With Tommy starting CPR and 911 called, everyone around was on the lookout for EMS and police. Of course it was taking forever for either to arrive. As Tommy said, “If you walk out with a beer you will have cops jumping all over you, but if you need them they are nowhere to be found.” About the time the patient came through the EMS arrived. Once the patient was responsive, the patient’s daughter thanked him and said, “You must be our guardian angel.” Tommy quickly responded “Actually no. I was looking for my wife’s tickets she dropped.” After a long, awkward pause the daughter gives Tommy her tickets since she was obviously heading to the hospital with her dad.

As the patient was loaded into the ambulance, the cop who responded to the call noticed a drink on the ground beside Tommy. He asked if anyone knew who’s drink it was. Tommy told the cop he is happy to dispose of the drink. With a wink the cops told him ok. He got up taking the drink and cigar and started heading back to the Dean Dome. At this point he realized his phone was going crazy in his pocket.  He knew it must be his wife, furious that her attempts to contact him were ignored.

As Tommy was walking down the stairs to the Dean Dome, he saw his wife and noticed for a brief moment flames and smoke coming from her hair. Yes, she was flaming mad. Tommy quickly explained to all around that he had tickets and saved a fan’s life. No sooner could Tommy get the words out when his wife looked at him mortified. She knew without asking that these tickets are from the patient’s family. “Oh, how could you Tommy!” All his wife could do was shake her head at him.

Tommy was quick to let me know that the man whose life he saved was a healthy, active, 62 year-old male, Larry Smith (long time Rams Club member).  He was in great shape with normal cholesterol and played pickup basketball weekly with his son prior to his run in with Tommy.

The Tailgate Marathon:
There are a few tailgaters who arrive between 8-9am no matter what the game start time is to set up.  The rest arrive at 10am no matter UNC’s opponent. The fellas were quick to tell me they would be out there that early even if the game was against Chapel Hill High.

The tailgate wound down earlier than normal before the Idaho game since everyone was excited to see the flyover and parachuting prior to kick-off. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas.


  1. Eric Englebardt's avatar
    Eric Englebardt
    | Permalink
    Erich Ehrenfreud may be the worst misspelling of my name, ever! But thanks for the coverage. Ted and Dam Hamrick are the best tailgate organizers in the world!
  2. chris wadwick's avatar
    chris wadwick
    | Permalink
    this is my group in our spot for years. i tweeted adam about us as season was starting!! sorry i missed this tailgate, but there will be better ones this year still!!

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