Wildside brings students together with tailgating area Fitzerland

SESP junior Tara McManus waits by the grill for her food.

Amy Whyte, Assistant Campus Editor

Before Northwestern’s football team kicked off its game against Maine on Saturday, hundreds of purple-clad students gathered just north of Ryan Field at “Fitzerland,” a new area for student tailgating.

Created by Wildside in conjunction with Student Affairs, Fitzerland had all the markings of an NU football tailgate: hot dogs and hamburgers, coolers filled with canned soda and beer, cornhole games and lots of purple. Unlike the first two home games, students were back on campus and filling the practice field at the third Fitzerland on Saturday.

“There has never really been one space for all the students to come and tailgate together,” Wildside spokeswoman Noor Hasan said. “We’ve seen different groups have tailgates off campus and at parking lots on campus, and it creates a very decentralized game day atmosphere. The idea of Fitzerland came about as this ‘One Northwestern,’ one place for everyone to come together and tailgate, rather than scatter all over campus and off campus.”

The name Fitzerland is a play on the name of football coach Pat Fitzgerald. A similar area for students to wait in line for tickets at Duke University is dubbed “Krzyzewskiville,” a reference to Blue Devils’ basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Fitzerland, which opens four hours prior to kickoff at home games and begins shutting down half an hour before the games begin, is bring-your-own food and drink and is open to all students and student groups. Grills are available for rent from Wildside, and storage space is provided for students who bring their own tailgating equipment.

“We really wanted to make it as easy a transition as possible from having tailgates at an off-campus residence to having them on campus near Ryan Field,” said Hasan, a Weinberg senior.

Communication junior Emily Bacalao, who arrived at Fitzerland two hours before the game, said the tailgating location was fun and convenient.

“It’s great because it’s closer, so we don’t have to worry about catching a shuttle because we’re already here,” Bacalao said.

Because Fitzerland is on NU property, all University policies regarding alcohol consumption apply: Students can drink if they are legally of age and no communal sources of beverages, such as kegs, are allowed. For safety reasons, glass bottles and charcoal grills are also not allowed. However, Wildside president Gram Bowsher said the rules would mostly be self-enforced by students.

“We want this to be a safe, fun environment, but we also don’t want this to be stuffy and some place where there’s going to be someone breathing down your back to make sure you’re following all the rules to a T,” the SESP junior said. “We do want people to know that the University policies apply and if you do something that’s going to be dangerous to yourself or to another student, those policies will come into effect, but we also think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a lot safer to let students be students at a central tailgating spot.”

Bowsher said Wildside’s executive board hopes Fitzerland will not only provide a safer location for students to tailgate, but that it would also help increase overall football game attendance.

“To have the student section as full as it was the first two games when so many people haven’t made it back to Evanston yet really shows a lot of support to the team,” Bowsher said. “We do credit a lot of that to the student tailgating because we have all these students that would typically be off-campus, and now they’re doing all their tailgating right there by the field.”

McCormick junior Aaron Orwasher, who attended Fitzerland for the first time Saturday, said he liked the new tailgating spot because it brought more students together than several off-campus parties would.

“It’s better to have it here,” Orwasher said. “There’s a much better game-day mentality.”

Bowsher said Wildside has already seen good attendance at Fitzerland, and he has high expectations for the rest of the season.

“All signs are pointing towards Fitzerland being the student tailgating space on campus,” Bowsher said. “Especially with the Ohio State game coming up. We’re really expecting things to be incredibly crowded, and its going to be an exciting, energetic atmosphere and a ton of fun.”

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