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By Jack Smith
Auburn fans are accustomed to seeing TV cameras on the sidelines every Saturday in the fall, but the Travel Channel recently sent a crew to The Plains to film a sport of a different sort, one that Tiger faithful love almost as much as football. They came to do a feature on tailgating.
"We are just focusing on the variety of cuisine at tailgates at different places geographically across the United States, so we decided to come to Auburn for the Florida game," said Scott Goldie, a producer for the Travel Channel.
The crew visited with tailgaters up and down Donahue Drive near Jordan-Hare Stadium. They weren't disappointed.
"Everyone is friendly, it's a communal atmosphere and everyone seems to be having a good time," Goldie said.
The Travel Channel crew was struck by how hospitable Auburn fans are, especially after visiting one tailgate where Auburn fans hosted a group of Florida Gators. They had a special item on the menu--deep-fried alligator--that fans of both schools enjoyed.
"Food brings people together," Goldie said. "You see that at these tailgates. There are Florida fans and Auburn fans eating together at some of these tailgates we have visited, and it doesn't seem to matter."
Gator wasn't the only unique item on the menu at Steve Taylor's tailgate that Saturday. The Travel Channel crew got a taste of deep-fried venison, too. Chicken, beef tenderloin, hotdogs, hamburgers and homemade cakes were also on the menu.
"Auburn is the South, and people are just as friendly as can be," Goldie said. "Everyone has been super nice to us, and you can tell they love their Auburn football. Everyone has welcomed us with open arms, so we're happy to be here."
Goldie also took note of how much preparation tailgaters put into preparing tailgate fare.
"The amount of preparation that goes into this is pretty amazing," he said. "It's almost like there are bragging rights among the different tailgaters. They don't just wake up on a Saturday morning and decide to go tailgating, they prepare to do it days in advance."
Goldie and his crew munched on beef tenderloin hot off the grill. The meat had been marinating for two days.
Earnie Wright Jr. said cooking good food and serving Southern hospitality is an Auburn tradition that reaches back to his childhood.
"We're a family," Wright said. "It's a family atmosphere at Auburn on gameday. People walk by and say War Eagle! And we invite them in and they might have a beverage or some food. It's been like that since I was a child. It's just wonderful."
The Auburn tailgate feature will air on "Food Paradise," a Travel Channel show entering its third season, later this fall. Check your local listings.