Oakland University is expecting to have its best-attended homecoming weekend ever this October.

Oakland University is expecting to have its best-attended homecoming weekend ever this October.

Photo provided by Brian Bierley, Oakland University director of media relations


Local tailgaters dust off the coolers ahead of fall football

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published August 15, 2018

 Chelsea Estes, of Clarkston, serves up some salsa to Jaden Talley, of Oak Park, at a Fraser tailgate party in 2014.

Chelsea Estes, of Clarkston, serves up some salsa to Jaden Talley, of Oak Park, at a Fraser tailgate party in 2014.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

 Assistant Principal of Fraser High School John Comnyn helps student Kyle Allor cook over 700 hot dogs for the tailgating party.

Assistant Principal of Fraser High School John Comnyn helps student Kyle Allor cook over 700 hot dogs for the tailgating party.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

METRO DETROIT — The excitement of true sports fans just can’t be contained by a set of bleachers. It spills onto the field, past the souvenir stand and out into the parking lot.

If you think tailgating is a blast at a Detroit Lions game, just imagine how much more fun it is for local matches, when the fan community is smaller and better acquainted. The party is more intimate and more impassioned.

That’s according to Tara Motowski, a team mom for De La Salle football. She said the Warren commuter school draws students from all over metro Detroit, and a little pregame pow-wow amongst families helps to keep the athletic community cohesive.

“It’s a lot of catching up,” she said. “There’s some cornhole sometimes, maybe a nice little adult drink, and we always feed them.”

The De La Salle tailgates are famous for their themed spreads: barbecue one night, Mexican another. Parents sign up to bring a dish to pass, and when the team is home — using Wayne State University’s field — they have access to electricity outside, which means warm, cozy dishes in slow cookers.

“If we’re away, we’ll just order pizzas or bring appetizers or something. But we’ll still get those big, purple tents out no matter what,” Motowski said. “We spend a few hours before the game just enjoying each other, having some food and get some music going. We just love it, and for us, we know the days are dwindling, since it’s (our son) Danny’s senior year. So it means that much more to us.”

But the party, of course, continues into college, with local schools like Oakland University proving they’ve got just as much pride as any Big Ten school. 

Brian Bierley, director of media relations for OU, is an alumnus himself, and he loves that with each passing year the celebrations to cheer on the Golden Grizzlies get bigger.

“When I began working at Oakland University, homecoming was in the winter and associated with a men’s basketball game. The game tie-in was exciting, and there were tailgaters during the weekend,” he said. “But a few years ago we moved homecoming to the fall, and the better weather has really made a positive difference. We now have more tailgating events planned around homecoming and reunion weekend. … We have student events and alumni events with tailgating aspects, and the momentum keeps growing.”

OU’s homecoming weekend will be held Oct. 5-6 this year, with a record turnout expected, thanks to more students living on campus this fall in the new Hillcrest Hall student housing facility. 

Bierley knows the new frosh will love stepping into the university’s long and spirited tradition.

“Tailgating is such a fun and relaxing way to stay engaged on college campuses for all sorts of groups and friends who just want to reconnect in the fall. It’s a tradition I hope never goes away,” he said.