As one of the top football programs in the country, and with undeniably the country’s loudest fans, it’s no surprise that Oregon football has one of the best tailgating scenes as well. In fact, in 2015, Scout.com had ranked Oregon the No. 1 tailgating school in the country.
Thirty years ago, the idea of Oregon being the top tailgating school in the country was about as likely as, well, the Oregon football team being the best team in the country. In other words: no way. Things have come a long way over the years, and the party scene outside Autzen Stadium has mirrored the success inside.
Today we sit down with Jed Nelson of “Jed’s Party,” a stalwart in the Oregon Ducks pre-game experience and tailgating community, to get a sense of the gameday magic.
How did Jed’s Party begin?
It started out in 2004 with a few friends who wanted to get together before the game to have a few beers and grill some red meat. After a couple games, word kept spreading and more and more people kept coming. I was getting overwhelmed with all the texts and phone calls from people trying to find out where we were parked.
So, to make it easy to find us, my dad donated some wind surfer poles, my sister made the flag, we mounted it above the van (a blue 1984 GMC conversion van) and the rest is history. Jed’s Party was officially born.
How big is the turn out to Jed’s Party?
Hard to say. I have my core group of around 50 people, then I get probably a couple hundred who have Jed’s Party down as part of their “tailgate hopping” routine. They’ll stop by and say hi, have a couple drinks, then move on to their next stop. It’s the tailgating version of bar hopping or pub crawling, and every game there are new people who stumble — sometimes literally — upon us and add us to their game-day routine.
What makes people wanna’ hang out?
Everybody grills and enjoys their favorite adult beverage, but this is truly a party scene. We have the drinking games, the energy, the penchant for a good time, the loud music, and of course — the dance floor.
Ah yes, the “go-go” dance floor you built on the roof of the van, how did that start?
Shortly after we put up the flagpole, a couple ladies got up there and used it as a dancing pole to celebrate another Ducks win. I didn’t want the roof of my van to get caved in, so I added the dance floor on top of the van. It’s a great outlet once the “liquid courage” kicks in, particularly early in the season when the weather’s still nice and the ladies wanna’ shake their stuff.
Legend has it you once hired professional “dancing girls” to dance up there… would you like to set the record straight on this?
That’s not true (laughing). If any “dancing girls” got up there and danced it was strictly coincidental and I didn’t know who they were, but I don’t go out of my way to deny that sort of behavior either (laughing). It sort of adds to the legacy. But we have had some skilled dancers up there, for sure. The only nudity that I know of was when my friend Red got up there and gave everyone a celebratory BA after we beat Oklahoma in 2006. That’s it.
Any “celebrity” visitors?
Let me think … Brandon Lloyd, Onterrio Smith, Samie Parker, Ed Dickson, Jason Williams, Ian Crosswhite, and Terry Porter … to name a view.
Not bad, an NBA legend and current NFL player; any memorable moments from that group?
Let’s just say Crosswhite was very, very thirsty. Oops (chuckling).
You and I both grew up in Eugene, are in our early 40’s, and started going to Duck games as little kids in the early 80’s. Back then tailgating at Autzen — to put it mildly — was weak sauce. How have things changed over the past 35 years?
Yeah, the early 80’s, you know how it was, those were the dark days. None of the buildings and ball fields had been built around Autzen, so the parking lot was absolutely huge but mostly empty on game day. Except when the Huskies came to town. They would fill up the parking lot, turn Autzen into one big purple haze, and then kick our ass on the field.
That was my first real exposure to tailgating. I was like, “what are all these people doing?” Turns out they were having fun, it just blows that I had to learn that from Husky fans. But, they were really good back then and we weren’t. I think the tailgating scene is generally a reflection of the health of the program, thankfully things have changed for us since then.
Have you ever missed a game since Jed’s Party started?
I think it was ’09, I was up all Friday night with the stomach flu, so it just wasn’t happening. I couldn’t keep anything down. My friends drove the van to the game and kept the tradition going. It just goes to show that Jed’s Party will live on long after I’m dead and gone (laughing).
But seriously, sure it’s my name on the flag, but it’s not about me, I just happened to be the guy with the van when we started all this. It’s about getting together with fellow Duck fans, having a good time, and winning football games.
And that my friends, will never grow old.
Top Photo by Wikipedia