By Andrew Reynolds, Arkansas Media Relations
It’s almost sunrise on a mild September day in central Arkansas, as an unnamed individual, donning a jersey with the No. 5 faded and worn, steps out onto the 18th hole at War Memorial Park. Rather than preparing a golf shot, he stirs a chili pot and pours himself a cup of coffee. Ever since he was a kid he’s come here twice a year to partake in what can only be described as a social phenomenon.
It’s Razorback game day in Little Rock.
For over half a century, fans have gathered just outside the confines of War Memorial Stadium to celebrate one of the Hogs’ two yearly trips down the hill to Little Rock. In what has become a rite of passage for fans young and old, tens of thousands of Razorback supporters litter the 10-acre plot of land just west of the stadium.
Rows of tents and pickup trucks dominate the landscape in anticipation of something that transcends football. What happens here is special. It’s pure, and it’s inevitable. No matter the weather or the state of the team’s success, they gather here to celebrate their love of Razorback football and allegiance to the great state of Arkansas.
Radio and television stations come out in bunches to set up an onsite location to deliver the experience to those who can’t make it out, and the sound of ‘Hit that line hit that line’ resonates throughout the area.
Fans are by no means limited to the resources they, themselves bring along. It is never uncommon to see three, sometimes four rows of tents strung together by a group who has pooled all their resources to make the day happen. No tent? No problem. Perhaps a majority of people wander the course, following their nose and heading to wherever it may lead them.
Baggo games, satellite dishes and 40-foot flagpoles come out, as if to say, ‘We’re here, and we aren’t leaving anytime soon.’
The Friday after Thanksgiving has been a holiday in and of itself for several decades, as turkey leftovers seem to make their way to the stadium in preparation for LSU. The ladies may be late arriving after a long morning of shopping, but they never seem to skip a beat.
As game time inches closer, it’s fascinating to watch the crowds of people make their way to the stadium. Tents stay up and televisions stay on for the guy who was unable to score a ticket.
Inside the stadium, the band has arrived and is preparing to step onto the field. A few fans have filed in and are occupying one of the nearly 54,000 bleacher seats that makes up the loudest bowl in college football.
After spending all day waiting, the game itself flies by. John George thanks everyone for coming and tells them to drive safely. The fact of the matter is, however, most aren’t going anywhere.
It’s not uncommon to see people hanging around hours after the final horn has sounded. It’s something about the electricity of the area that leaves people craving more.
There does come a time, however, when the tents start disappearing, the satellite dishes are taken down and the flagpoles hauled away, only to return the next time the Hogs make the trip.
Still sporting that No. 5 jersey, our Hog fan turns the chili pot off and loads the rest of his equipment in the back of his pickup. Before driving away, he shakes the hand of a new friend and says “see you next time, my friend.”