This year’s Princeton-Harvard game kicked off at 1 p.m., but for the loyal contingent of Class of 1956 graduates, family, and friends on the lawn behind Cloister Inn, the festivities started nearly three hours earlier. The group has been perfecting the art of tailgating at every home game for more than 20 years, and the colorful tables carried a host of favorite dishes: mini sandwiches, sliced salmon, crackers and cheeses, and deviled eggs with a Princeton theme — orange-tinted filling, garnished with a ring of black olive.
In other parking lots around the stadium, clusters of friends and family gathered around smoking grills and ice-filled coolers on a near-perfect autumn day. Bands played, children tossed footballs, and alumni reunited for the University’s unofficial homecoming. Shortly before kickoff, a spirited student contingent streamed into the lower sections of Princeton Stadium’s west side. Though midterms were looming, more than 1,000 Facebook users — mostly undergrads — clicked the “I’m attending” button on a page designed to drum up excitement for the Harvard game. Total attendance was just shy of 10,000.
On the field, the Tigers made a handful of thrilling plays, bringing the crowd to its feet, but in the end, Princeton could not keep up with the visitors from Cambridge (see p. 24 for details). Many in attendance seemed to adopt the attitude of Tom Meeker, longtime ringleader of the ’56 tailgates, who has come to view the games as secondary. The important part, he says, is coming together with people you enjoy.
Football weekends are a good time to dust off the sort of festive Tiger gear usually reserved for Reunions, like the plush slippers that Terry Markisohn w’56 wore to the Class of 1956 tailgate. The class has been welcoming the band to its home-game tailgates for about two decades, creating a special bond between the alumni and band members.
Tom Meeker ’56, at top, and other alumni provide donations and snacks, the band supplies the entertainment, and at the end of the visit, the two groups exchange locomotive cheers.
Inside Jadwin Gym, the band played another set of favorite fight songs. More than two dozen classes signed up for indoor tables this year, ranging from the Class of 1941 to the Class of 2003.
In the parking lot outside Jadwin, the family of Tiger football captain Steven Cody ’11, bottom photo, donned its orange and black along with parents and friends of several other current players.
For cheerleaders, mascots, and bands, the job of jazzing up a crowd becomes a little easier when there are more bodies in the bleachers. Despite Princeton’s struggles on the field, the student section at football games has been pretty lively this season, thanks in part to Rawr, a new student-initiated fan club that sends e-mail reminders before games. According to Bianca Reo ’12, the group’s “head rabble-rouser,” the real recruiting comes in the hours leading up to kickoff, when members march through campus, trying to coax students out of their dorms. One perk of joining Rawr: free body paint.
At halftime of the Harvard game, which included a performance by the neatly attired Harvard band, the athletics department’s “parade of champions” honored members of the 13 Tiger teams that won league titles in 2009–10. John Stogin ’11 of the men’s fencing team, bottom photo, doubled as an honoree and devoted fan, keeping his orange wig in place for the ceremony.