People sliding around in the mud created by spilt beer and wrestling matches. Fourteen music sources blaring at once. Balconies displaying logos of all kinds. A scene reminiscent of the last big urban riot –– or a music festival. Something like that.
Those are some of the things we think about when we imagine donning our Hokie gear once again and heading out to Center Street — a land with few laws and many good memories. To others, it may sound like a scene out of Woodstock, or perhaps even a category three hurricane, and in a way it kind of is.
Virginia Tech football is known for its massive turkey legs and consistently beating our arch-nemesis, UVA. Despite the glamour of our football team and high ranking entrance to “Enter Sandman,” we also have an amazing tailgating scene. In the area surrounding Lane Stadium, there are thousands of people enjoying the pregame festivities — from innocent cheeseburgers to depraved, beverage-fueled stunts.
I’d like to think there are two sides to tailgating a football game at Virginia Tech: the Town of Blacksburg and the rest of us.
The Town of Blacksburg
Football games are when Blacksburg transforms from a quiet mountain town into a city with no mercy for the tired. Traveling through the town on gameday, you will find a massive number of residents, alumni and Hokie families setting up awnings, grilling burgers and loving life.
As you get closer to Lane Stadium, more and more tailgaters line up their trucks to make a huge ecosystem of red meat, cornhole games and some of the most hardcore Virginia Tech fans out there. In the highly congested parking lots surrounding the stadium, you may realize just how special college football really can be for people.
The rest of us (Center Street)
Behind the woods that line the edge of campus and the east side of Lane Stadium lies a truly unique place — Center Street, or “Center.” This is a place almost devoid of consequences on gameday and is one of the main attractions at Virginia Tech for students.
Center Street is a neighborhood comprised of a few streets that take on a new light on gameday. It becomes a sea of people all having an iconic time in the hours (and sometimes night) before Virginia Tech football games. The grass turns to mud, there is music, sometimes live, blasting and hordes of people in one massive all-day party hosted by thousands of students.
Center Street is a seemingly lawless land, a place of mystery to those new to such an image. For starters, there is no cell service at all, assumingly because of the volume of people, so everyone is essentially stuck in the 1980s. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — it’s actually kind of fun. Then there’s the sheer amount of people. It’s not uncommon to see the occasional street brawl or perhaps a 20-foot bamboo shoot sticking out of the crowd, ripped out of the ground by someone. The police do have a presence there, but unless there is a serious public disturbance or crime, they generally let us all have our fun. After all, it’s gameday.
Through the mud and crowded streets with stolen signs, you may wonder if there is any advice to surviving such a fun ordeal, and there are a few things to look out for.
Your clothes and shoes will get dirty, so don’t wear your Sunday best on a Saturday. You will have a hard time keeping all your friends together, and it can be frustrating, so have a designated meeting spot. Be prepared to run into literally everyone you know, even if you are really bad at names. Be prepared to get soaked in spilled beer. Finding your way to Lane Stadium may get progressively harder, so leave early. Many people don’t even make it to the game. Finally, always stop by your parents’ or family friends’ tailgate to grab some food before.
Center Street is an unofficial staple of Virginia Tech, a mystery land embedded in the heart of tailgating country. A place you will talk about to your friends long after college is over. A place where your friends become best friends. So, in a word, enjoy it while you can, just like everyone tailgating in the parking lots once did.