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Tailgating: No matter the rain, they’re up for the game – tailgate fans ready for Ragin’ Cajuns

Lynda Edwards, Daily Advertiser, October 5, 2012

Cal Smith a tailgating tent before Saturday's football game between UL Lafayette and Texas State at Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. Tailgaters are preparing for potential rainy weather associated with the projected landfall of Tropical Storm Karen on Saturday. Paul Kieu, The Advertiser

Cal Smith a tailgating tent before Saturday’s football game between UL Lafayette and Texas State at Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. Tailgaters are preparing for potential rainy weather associated with the projected landfall of Tropical Storm Karen on Saturday. Paul Kieu, The Advertiser

Two dozen early bird Ragin’ Cajun fans who braved downpours to pitch tailgate tents Friday before game day did not wear boots. They proudly wore sandals and sneakers.

“We’re Cajuns; we aren’t scared of rain or a hurricane when we go to a football game,” Dane Delahoussaye said.

His buddy, Blaise Bernard, had three Ragin’ Cajun red shirts dry and safe in his truck for a quick change. Art Leblanc, who was helping pitch their tent, had dressy clothes hanging in his truck so he could attend his sister’s engagement party later Friday.

“My priorities were tailgating and her party in that order — I tried to keep my priorities a secret from my sister,” Leblanc said with a grin.

The men prepared for 30 tailgating friends. The game day forecast was rain followed by a chilly evening so they would cook grits and grillades (steak chunks in rich gravy). A few grassy spaces away, Cal Smith unloaded a grill and a sink and running water. His group makes unique tailgate fare like fried venison, bollos (a Cuban treat of fried black-eyed peas) and a Guam version of steak tartare.

Louisiana State University alumni Bret Lofton helped Smith. Lofton became a loyal UL tailgater when he married a UL alumni. His mother is a former LSU Golden Girl, the LSU dance team that performs for football games. Lofton goes to Baton Rouge to watch her and other former Golden Girls dance during football season.

“When Bret joined us for his first tailgate, he asked how many of us had game tickets and none of us did so Bret bought 30 tickets for us,” Smith said.

Smith began tailgating in 1999 when his friends used small pop-up tents. One day it rained so hard, the pop-ups collapsed in the mud. As 60 tailgaters huddled by a final, sinking pop-up, they unanimously decided to buy a 25-by-25 foot tent.

“Last year, it rained so hard one game day that we were standing in rain this deep,” Smith said, holding his hands a foot apart. “Now we have tent side flaps to give some protection.”

Joey Pellerin has a big RV with a three-burner stove. But he says a UL tailgate is exhilarating despite rain or sweating in the sun.

“This is where you see the Cajun spirit in its truest form,” Pellerin said, nodding toward the huge sweep of grass between his space, 134, and the stadium.

“The sense of community here is so powerful. Last year, two of my girlfriends from high school I hadn’t seen in 23 years came to my tailgate. On game day, I could walk from here to the stadium and get stopped 25 times by friends but also by strangers who want me to try their boudin or just talk and laugh and make a new friend. ”

RAGIN’ CAJUN TAILGATE TIPS FOR RAINY GAME DAYS

• “Remember, the tents are meant mostly for shade and not the rain so just plan on getting rained on and have fun.” — Blaise Bernard.
• “Wear a poncho or even a plastic trashbag when you are sitting inside a stadium. Getting rained on at a tailgate is more comfortable than sitting still in a crowd under a pouring rain.” — Joey Pellerin.
• “Have a change of clothes and some towels in your vehicle. It’s good to have a friend with an RV.” — Mickey Louvierre.
• “If you’re not going to wear a poncho, have a change of clothes and make friends with someone who has an RV so you can change.” — Tyler Douglas
• “As long as your food isn’t full of rain, you’ll have a good time.” — Bret Lofton