Here, at the University of Georgia, tradition is like none other. From the Arch to the Chapel Bell, down Milledge and through the streets of Downtown, across North Campus, and down to Sanford Stadium, there is one tradition that unites it all. That revered pastime comes on six sacred fall Saturdays in this Classic City. The activity we call tailgating brings the Red and Black together with tents, fold up chairs, good food, better drinks, and the best of friends. In the hours prior to teeing it up Between the Hedges, the time we spend “pre-gaming” is what Saturdays in Athens are all about. A tailgate staple in this city has been and always will be the one and only Kid’s Tailgate.
Back in the 1960s, some Damn Good Dawgs, their wives, along with a few coolers of beer began the greatest tailgate under a red and black tent Athens had ever seen. John “Kid” Terrell, Terry Wingfield, E. H. Culpepper, Bubber Scruggs, and Mac McLeod along with several other young diehard fans got together before the Dawgs kicked it off, and the rest is history. The memories stemming from these unforgettable Saturdays are things out of movies, and the games they witnessed were even better.
As the Dawgs stormed into the 80s, winning a national title and three SEC Championships in the first three years of the decade, Kid’s Tailgate was in the same boat, adding members and picking up steam as the greatest spot to spend time with friends on an autumn Saturday. When Clisby Clarke came out with his Bulldog hits “Let the Big Dog Eat” and “Bulldog Bite,” he would come to tailgate. The original members pitched in and rented a piano for Clisby, and he would tickle the ivory before kickoff for those at Kid’s to enjoy. The legendary stories don’t end there.
Before Loran Smith was on the sidelines during the game, he was enjoying the fellowship at Kid’s Tailgate. His radio companion and Georgia’s voice of the Dawgs for so many years, Larry Munson, would accompany Mr. Smith before the games as well. Like I said, movies could be written about this group and their times celebrating Georgia football.
The Dawgs could lose on the field, but you were always winning at Kid’s. The only undefeated opponent for the original members was age. As the 90s rolled around and the young bucks of the next generation grew to be competent tailgaters, they began to run the show. Despite their sons taking over, you could still count on the originals’ presence.
In July of 2009, age got the best of three original members; E.H. Culpepper, Bubber Scruggs, and John “Kid” Terrell all passed away within one week of each other. The three were some of the best friends, and what they started so many years ago was not going to die with them. This was the official passing of the torch. The next generation became the captains of Kid’s Tailgate.
Following these deaths, famous cartoonist Jack Davis drew two caricatures of E.H. Culpepper and John “Kid” Terrell. The illustrations were formed into life size stickers and placed on the back of the “tailgate truck,” an old U-Haul converted to tailgate transportation service. As Jack Davis accurately portrayed the two smiling, enjoying life, E.H. and Kid sit on the back of the truck still smiling over the beautiful tailgate they created.
The next generation of Kid’s Tailgate members carry on the tradition some of their fathers and grandfathers started over 50 years ago. For years, Kid’s has been a welcoming spot on the way to Sanford to any and all visitors. Athens business leaders, politicians, and UGA staff have faithfully stopped by on those six Saturdays every year. Out of state Bulldogs are members as well, making their travels to the Classic City for every home game. Some of the tailgate’s greatest members and guests are the coach’s wives as they have tailgated in the same parking lot for many years as well. Despite coaching changes, coach’s wives have always enjoyed the company of Kid’s and vice versa.
The last original member, Terry Wingfield, passed right before the 2021 football season started. As he shared so many great memories with all generations apart of the tailgate, he left a lasting legacy. Now that all the members are once again reunited past the pearly gates, I know they are partying every Saturday as the Dawgs have stretched their undefeated season to 10-0 and securing our first perfect record in SEC play since 1982. The crew can finally enjoy these winning Saturdays once again, and maybe the reunited posse is smiling down on us alongside Lady Luck, helping us to this unbelievable season.
Sitting in the parking lot up the hill from the Dawg Walk, behind Clark Howell Hall, Kid’s Tailgate has been and always will be Athens’ favorite pit stop before entering the hallowed gates of Sanford Stadium. Erk Russell once said, “When the dust settles, only the GOATs of Saturday will remain.” Those original members are the ones who remain despite any win, loss, or draw that takes place Between the Hedges. Rain, sleet, or snow, the Bulldog faithful and Kid’s members can always be found enjoying a deviled egg, BBQ ribs, and a Bloody Mary on those six sacred Saturdays every fall in the Classic City.