Hundreds of Pittsburg State football fans gather before the game to support the team. One might call it a form of therapy.

Hundreds of Pittsburg State football fans gather before the game to support the team. One might call it a form of therapy.
Tailgating has a long history at Pittsburg State football games, and many tailgaters said the relaxing atmosphere is part of the draw.
“We love the relaxing part of it,” said Dick Gifford of Colony. “You come out and can watch the crowd. You just grill, and enjoy yourselves. You can sit back and kick off your shoes, get some food, have a cold beer and a cup of coffee, maybe both at the same time, and take a little time for yourself away from the rat race for a little while. There’s probably 10 things I ought to do, but you come out here and take some time to relax.”
One can find all sorts of people, food, and groups tailgating hours before the game. Saturday’s football game didn’t start until 7 p.m., but tailgaters were in the Pittsburg State parking lot as early as 5 a.m.
It’s all about the “food, beer, and friends,” as one tailgater said. And the food, well, there’s the food.
Under this tent is shrimp ready for the grill, with steaks under that tent. Burgers and sausage here, ribs and brisket there. You want meat? Just head to the tailgate.
Veterans of the tailgate know the tradition and joy of tailgating.
John Ketterman, of Pittsburg, has been out there for six to seven years tailgating eight to 10 hours before the game. He’s been out here even longer if one counts the years when fans had to wait in line for tickets.
“We start planning the next year’s tailgate the day after the last football game of the previous year,” Ketterman said. “The atmosphere and people around here are great. Sometimes you don’t get to see it, but in the football season, it’s a relaxing time. I was born and raised in Pittsburg. I’ve been a Gorilla fan all my life. As far as Gorilla fandom, you either have it or you don’t. I’ve been through ice storms, monsoons and everything else in that stadium and parking lot. It’s all about supporting the team.”
Supporting the team for the first time is seven-week-old Shooter Strahan, who was wheeled in the stroller by his parents, Camie and Jeff Strahan. Shooter came decked out for his first football game, wearing a PSU shirt, PSU socks, and clutching a Pittsburg State blanket.
His parents said the tailgate is a family tradition. Jeff has been going to tailgates for 20 years. Camie has been for eight or nine.
“My husband went here, and I’m a graduate student,” Camie Strahan said. “It’s nice to get out of the house on a nice day and enjoy the festivities and have a few beers.”
Of course, tailgating changes a bit when you have a new child.
“It used to just be [Jeff] and I, but now we are having to make adjustments. We wanted to come out at noon, but [Shooter] decides when we come out. You almost have to bring a U-Haul to be prepared for the afternoon with him. It used to just be you take a 12-pack and some ice.”
Dick Gifford and his wife know tailgating. They’ve tailgated across the country for years covering various teams, notably the Naval Academy. But since they moved back to the area a couple years ago, Pittsburg State is the place to tailgate.
“It compares to a Division-I level tailgate pretty easily,” Gifford said. “It’s just as good as anywhere and a lot better, too. They don’t allow you anywhere to get as close as you do to the band and the team. The atmosphere and the crowd noise — you won’t find a better place in the world. There’s a lot of things going on here you won’t find anywhere else.”

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.