Besides the typical ballgame food like hamburgers and hot dogs, fans at Lane Stadium can chow down on a meal that is both rich in flavor and tradition.
Turkey legs have been sold for about 10 years at Virginia Tech football games. For 10 dollars, one leg of meat wrapped in aluminum foil can easily fill most customers’ stomachs.
Each home game sees hundreds of turkey legs thrown on the grill only to be quickly dispersed to waiting fans shortly after.
“We’ve had a bigger (grill) each time, and we still can’t keep up with the demand of turkey legs,” said stand worker, Karen Galston.
An increasing number of turkey legs have been sold each game this season: 308 sold before the game started, 420 by halftime, 600 by the third quarter and finally around 1,000 by the end of the game in this last matchup against Pittsburgh. And the numbers would have been higher if not for the cutback in grills around the stadium.
In previous years, turkey leg vendors stood in each corner of the stadium, but a recent order by the fire marshal resulted in the removal of all the grills except for one between the east and south stands.
“He was just afraid that it would be too congested if there was ever an evacuation from the stadium,” said Doug Dodson, general manager of Centerplate, Tech’s concessions vendor.
So far the only way concessions has been able to compensate for the lack of grills is to increase the size of the only one left.
Despite the decreasing number of locations to purchase the legs, fans continue to follow the smell of the turkey wafting through the stadium to the grill to buy their own.
“First they couldn’t get us enough turkey legs,” Galston said. “Then they got us enough turkey legs, but we didn’t have a grill big enough. We kept it full all the time to keep up with the demand.”
She and a handful of other workers from the church, God’s House in Pembroke, Va., handle the responsibilities of the stand. They get a small percentage of the profits that go toward their church’s youth group.
From delivery truck to mouth, feeding the hungry masses is a simple process.
The turkey legs arrive already cooked and frozen from Sysco food distributor. Tech puts them in a refrigerator to thaw for two days before the game. On game day they are cooked on the grill at 165 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Once done, they are wrapped in aluminum foil before being placed in warmers or sold directly to the customers. According to Galston, they usually don’t even make it to the warmers. People are even willing to eat them cold, but concessions require them to be cooked.
“One man told me he waited 53 minutes on a turkey leg,” Galston said.
This patient customer isn’t the only one who was willing to go the extra mile for a leg. Galston remembers one particular customer from North Carolina who had been all over the ACC and other conferences, but she praised Tech’s turkey legs most highly.
“She said she always looked forward to coming to Virginia Tech because they have the best food, and she has to have a turkey leg,” remembers Galston.