The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party Is A Game Like None Other
It’s a scene in college football like none other. The drive to Jacksonville’s EverBank Stadium for the annual World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, simply put, is just different, has a unique vibe and is more exciting than an ordinary college football game.
By Joe Vitale:
The SEC border clash between the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators is one of the great spectacles in all of sports. Pulling out of Saint Simons Island and Jekyll Island, the Bulldog faithful head south down I-95 towards River City. Driving down US Route 1, car loads of Georgia fans cross the St. John’s River over the Hart Bridge, with its green girders reminiscent of the old Gator Bowl. Reaching the crest of the bridge, the red and black and blue and orange clad fans come into view. RVs as far as the eye can see, school flags flying in the breeze, tents dotting the landscape, thousands of people tailgating, music blasting and the mesquite aroma of countless BBQs create the most festive atmosphere in college football.
Not only for the fans of both schools, but the atmosphere is electric for the players. They are amazed by the size of the crowds around the stadium. Including Sanford Stadium and Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, most college campus stadiums are situated in compact spaces and have a limited amount of open space. EverBank Stadium is surrounded by open fields and large parking lots, so the players are witnessing many more fans congregated in one spot than they are usually accustomed.
“I remember coming over the bridge and seeing tailgates set up everywhere, people walking around, and the festivities going on,” former Georgia center Ben Jones once said. “I’m like, ‘Wow! It’s 12 o’clock in the afternoon. How long have they been out here doing this?”
Former Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin once commented, “Coach Richt always tells everybody who hasn’t played in the game this is the closest you’ll get to the SEC championship game or national championship game scene without being in the game. Just seeing all the people tailgating, the red and the orange, and how many people that are there, it’s amazing.”
Each year since 1933, except for 1994 and 1995 when the old Gator Bowl was being renovated, Georgia and Florida have met in Jacksonville. The game was christened “the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” in the early 1950s by Bill Kastelz, sports editor for the Florida Times-Union.
The series dates to 1904, but Florida doesn’t count that first game, as it occurred before the modern establishment of the university by the Florida legislature in 1905. The first game was played in Macon between Georgia and the Florida Agriculture College, one of four predecessor colleges of Florida, based in Lake City.
However, it shouldn’t be Georgia’s fault that a majority of Floridians remained uneducated for 120 years after the establishment of the University of Georgia. Legendary Georgia sports historian Dan Magill summed it up best when he so eloquently stated, “That’s where Florida was back then. We can’t help it if they got run out of Lake City.”