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Guest Post: Wildside Hopes "Fitzerland" Changes NU Tailgating Culture

Gram Bowsher is the President of Northwestern Wildside, NU's student section. In this note, he explains the idea behind "Fitzerland," NU's new student tailgating initiative. You can follow Gram on Twitter at @GramBowsher and Wildside at @NUWildside, and learn more about Wildside at GoU-NU.com.

Hopefully you’ve heard by now. If you haven’t, I didn’t do a good job spreading the word. Starting this Saturday, Northwestern students will finally be granted a tailgating space at Ryan Field on home football Saturdays.

I grew up in Columbus, born into a family engrossed in Ohio State football. My dad coached the linebackers under then-defensive coordinator Ron Zook. I attended games regularly throughout childhood. I tailgated at The Shoe through my teens. But then I came to Northwestern, and things were different. The game day experience in Evanston was significantly lacking compared to other Big Ten towns.

I wasn’t the only one that took notice; in a survey completed by nearly 400 Northwestern students, a sizeable percentage of respondents wanted a tailgate to improve their game day experience. So, in my first summer as President of Wildside, my Executive Board and myself made it one of our priorities to secure a tailgate space for students.

After meeting with the Athletic Department, the Office of Student Affairs, University Police, and Athletics Facilities, a student tailgate space was finally approved. We were ecstatic, and the initial response from students and alumni alike was equally positive. A tailgate space for students was needed, and now it exists.

But this is about more than giving students a place to eat, drink, and be merry prior to a Northwestern game. This tailgate represents a shift in culture, a step in a direction of increased support and passion for Northwestern Athletics. Students want to be at Ryan Field on Saturdays. They want to be in the stands cheering and going crazy for their team. There just wasn’t much of a “fun” atmosphere to compete with the off-campus festivities also occurring on game day.

That, however, is no longer the case. Northwestern students can enjoy the same atmosphere at Ryan Field, with the added benefit of being right at the stadium for the game. This addition completely alters the student game day experience, and, we hope, alters the future memories students have about Northwestern football.

Northwestern is never going to have the large, expansive tailgating of Ohio State, Iowa or Wisconsin. We can, however, match their enthusiasm and support in our uniquely Northwestern way. We can come out and fill up the lot north of Ryan Field with 1000 students. We can make an impact on the game with our cheering. We can make people realize that Northwestern is not the same as it was, and that will start with us students.

I invite all of you to come and check out the inaugural Fitzerland student tailgate this Saturday before the ‘Cats take on the Syracuse Orange. The tailgate will officially open at 1:00pm and last until 30 minutes prior to kickoff. If you have any questions about Wildside, Fitzerland, or the student game day experience, check out the Wildside website at GoU-NU.com or email Wildside at Wildside.Exec@gmail.com. Go ‘Cats.