Citywide Tailgate helps ring in homecoming

Employees at the Book Mart & Cafe show out their costumes for the Citywide Tailgate on Thursday (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)
Staff Writer

Booths set up by local businesses added extra color and school spirit to downtown Starkville on Friday, competing for best tailgater with the theme of “Tailgating at its Finest” and feeding over 1,200 participants - its largest crowd in years.

Citywide Tailgate co-chair Jennifer Logan said around 1,200 to 1,500 people visited the tailgate and the organization raised the most money they have in the last two years.

“We’re just grateful for all the participants and supporters that came through,” Logan said.

There were 20 teams, with 32 businesses set up on Main Street, Lampkin Street and Hospital Drive to celebrate Mississippi State University’s homecoming weekend. Participants were able to browse booths, taste the food and socialize with local businesses.

Proceeds went to the United Way of North Central Mississippi to benefit the 15 agencies it supports.

The winner of overall best citywide tailgater was the Greater Starkville Development Partnership and the best new tailgater was the team booth which included the city of Starkville, Starkville Police Department and Starkville Fire Department.

Winners for each zone included ERA Town and Campus Realty and DeRego’s tent for zone one, the GSDP for zone two, Sullivan’s Office Supply for zone three, Bell Building Supply for zone four and Starkville Manor Nursing Home for zone 5.

“The weather was perfect and doing stuff for the United Way is always a good thing,” GSDP President and CEO Scott Maynard said. “We were happy to see there were a lot more teams participating this year. We were excited to see all the people out shopping downtown and trying all the food.”

At the GSDP booth, there was an in-house chili contest where different employees of the office made a chili for participants to try and vote for their favorite. Special Events Coordinator Paige Watson’s chili was declared winner after the votes were in.

“The Citywide Tailgate is a longstanding event started by the Starkville Daily News and we’re excited for the last few years the United Way has picked it back up,” GSDP Director of Tourism Jennifer Prather said. “It’s a great way for the community to rally together around football season.”

The city of Starkville, SPD and SFD set up a tent together in front of City Hall and Mayor Lynn Spruill said they plan to compete in upcoming years for the event.

“It allows the city employees who came here to enjoy and meet residents they don’t necessarily see in this kind of capacity very often,” Mayor Lynn Spruill said. “With everyone being here we can let them enjoy and walk the streets and share their culinary skills and also just be visible and out there.”

United Way Executive Director Candy Crecink said the event has existed for over 20 years, and for the past six years, the United Way has headed it up.

“The tailgate makes people more aware of our presence in the community and makes them more aware of how we’re trying to bring neighbors together for an enjoyable time,” Crecink said. “In having an enjoyable time, they’re supporting their other neighbors that need their help, so it’s a win-win.”

Crecink said the tailgate supports the United Way’s philosophy of “stronger neighbors create stronger communities” by allowing businesses in the community raise money for local organizations.

Salvation Army Service Center Manager Katie Walker and Volunteer Starkville Executive Director Daphne Knox were set up in front of the GSDP building. The United Way supports both of the organizations.

“Since we are United Way agencies this is, for us, another way to kind of help support the United Way for having supported us,” Walker said. “The United Way helps us help and serve the community we live in. Without that we wouldn’t be able to do as much.”

Sullivan’s Office Supply representative Shannon Craddock said the business has tailgated for 12 years. This year, the business chose to serve finger foods like a snack mix called “trash” and sausage dip with crackers.

The Orchard was set up for its first year at the tailgate and pastor Wes Schrickel said the tailgate was an opportunity for the church to both participate in a community event and support a local organization.

“We’ve met some new people that we’ve never seen before,” Schrickel said. “We met people here in town thatwe are able to serve for a good cause and raise money for the United Way.”

Participants Quondra Johnson and Tiffany Brooks were visiting booths, tasting the food and getting to know the businesses on Main Street.

This was Johnson’s second year visiting the tailgate and Brooks’ first year.

“I enjoy the experience of being out and seeing what is available,” Brooks said. “I look forward to getting to see what all is available and experiencing this tailgate.”