When football season starts at Penn State, nothing can keep the fans away – not even thousands of miles.
Jarrod Prebola has been coming to Penn State games and taking part in the tailgating tradition since he was about four years old. After graduating from the university in 2010, he travelled to Australia and south east Asia this summer, finding himself in Thailand mere days before Penn State’s first home game of this season.
He had a choice to make.
“I literally just arrived back in America on Thursday,” Prebola says. “And I won’t lie, this right here is the big reason that I came back.”
All around him, families, friends and Penn State fans – dressed to the nines in their blue and white – crowd around cars and RVs, enjoying what Prebola describes as the “fun, family atmosphere.” Children throw footballs back and forth, while the smell of freshly cooked food and the sound of laughter is everywhere.
Tom Grimm, a Harrisburg area resident, has been coming to Penn State games for over four decades. Saturday’s game marks his forty-first year as a diehard fan.
While he loves football and the Nittany Lions, he says it’s not just the sport that keeps him coming back – it’s the relationships he’s built with fellow fans. No matter how many years pass, he always feels at home outside Beaver Stadium.
“I have friends that I don’t see anywhere else but here, and they’re some of my best friends in life,” Grimm says. “Every game is like a homecoming.”
Maddy Martin, a native of State College, drove down from her current home in Philadelphia to carry on a family tradition. Since she’s been tailgating she was “knee high to a tailgate table,” there’s no way she would stop now.
“My parents even got married on a Friday so they could go to a Penn State away game for their honeymoon,” Martin says.
When her parents started tailgating in the late 60’s, she saw the power they had to bring people together. She made it her goal to carry that on into the future, and she’s succeeded. She see friends from college and high school – even people she knew in kindergarten – at her tailgates each year.
“There’s so much to love out here: friends, family, football, food and beer,” Martin says. “But the best part is definitely the new friendships you make, and the old ones you rekindle.”
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