Starting next season, Sacramento State will be looking to give tailgating before football games a boost. (Sacramento State/Bob Solorio)

Tailgating is a time-honored tradition for many Hornet football faithful who gather by the hundreds in Parking Lot 8 before Sacramento State’s home games.

They listen to music, dance, play games, toss footballs, grill food, and yell “Stingers up!” as the football players, marching band, and cheerleaders make their way toward Hornet Stadium, a ritual known as the Hornet Walk.

But the fan tradition is getting a closer look as the 2017 season ends Saturday, Nov. 18, when the Hornets face UC Davis in the Causeway Classic. Kickoff is 2 p.m. at Hornet Stadium. Parking Lot 8 opens at 10 a.m., and tailgating starts at noon. The Hornet Walk is at 11:45 a.m.

“We want to improve the tailgating experience for students and the whole Hornet community,” says Mark Orr, who’s in his first year as Sac State athletics director. “Can we create an environment that’s enjoyable for everybody? I especially want tailgating to be fun for the students, and it should be. It’s a part of their Sac State experience.”

At the request of President Robert S. Nelsen, Orr formed a campus task force to examine the University’s current tailgating guidelines and determine how to enhance the fan experience. Final recommendations will be presented to Nelsen, and a new plan is scheduled to be in place for the 2018 Hornet football season.

Task force members include several student leaders – Mia Kagianas, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI); Trevor Wright, Pi Kappa Alpha and former Hornet football player; Gianna Cardinale, Panhellenic Sorority Council; and Cassie Thiel, Green Army – along with representatives of the Sacramento State Police Department, Hornet Athletics, the Sacramento State Marching Band, and others.

“To me, celebrating our Hornet athletes by tailgating signifies community pride and togetherness,” says Kagianas, the ASI president. “The tailgating atmosphere fosters unity among students, alumni, faculty, staff, and our Sac State families.

"Whether it’s by sharing meals with fellow Hornet fans, or cheering in the stands with friends, tailgating at sporting events adds to our culture of caring at Sac State.”

Ideas proposed at the task force’s Nov. 8 meeting included providing hot dogs, popcorn, and soft drinks for students; organizing a grilling competition or a best-tailgating-setup contest; selling Hornet merchandise in the parking lot; adding more games and activities to engage students; and increasing the number of portable toilets. Task force members also are considering how to encourage all tailgaters to eventually make their way into Hornet Stadium for the game.

“It’s six Saturdays a year,” Orr says. “We can come up with something fun for students, alumni, and the campus community that, at the end of the day, supports our football team.

“My motivation as the athletic director is to see more spirit. So you go to the tailgate and see a lot of green and gold, and people getting excited for the football game. I’d like it be more integrated, where it’s a gathering place and, for that moment, we’re all celebrating being Hornets.” – Dixie Reid