Tailgaters from Philomath
Tailgaters from Philomath have fun in the Reser Stadium parking lot prior to Saturday night’s Oregon State football game against Arizona State. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

On a chilly Saturday evening outside Reser Stadium, Kevin Berklund seems to fit right in while tailgating before Oregon State’s kickoff against Arizona State. The atmosphere provides a certain level of comfort for the 49-year-old Philomath resident — and not just because of cold beer and chicken wings.

The OSU football experience has long been a big part of his life. Take the 2001 Fiesta Bowl trip, you know, when the Beavers clobbered Notre Dame, 41-9. The trip no doubt had to be fun with that score but it also provided a very memorable moment.

“That’s when we found out we were going to have a child,” said Berklund, referring to his daughter, Lauren.

For many football fans, game day would not be complete without tailgating. Culinary delights might hit the spot and a competitive cornhole contest could add to the fun but spending time with good friends and family represent the primary attraction to the pregame experience.

“That’s why a lot of us do it,” Berklund said. “Sometimes you see people you haven’t seen in a while, like tonight, some friends of ours were here from Minnesota that I haven’t seen in probably 20 years.”

In Berklund’s case, tailgating has been an annual fall ritual for most of his life — at least 35 years. In earlier years, the family tailgated in the trailer parking area before moving over to the parking lot outside the stadium.

“I can’t say I came for the football all the time because you know, it’s Oregon State, but you know, it’s good,” Berklund said. “We just hang out and have fun. This is why we do it … the kids get to come, we get the next generation involved and just have fun.”

That Fiesta Bowl trip two decades ago certainly ranks high with a positive outcome and news of a baby on the way. (By the way, the 2001 team was honored at Saturday’s game). When asked if he had a most memorable tailgating experience, another weekend came to Berklund’s mind.

“I’m not even sure what game it was, but we had the RV over there, and we started making breakfast burritos,” he said. “We showed up at 7:30 and we just started making breakfast burritos and everybody started showing up. I think the game was at 5 o’clock. We just had fun all day long.”

A football-themed table with snacks and drinks. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Based on various theories about the history of tailgating, it appears that the practice has been around in some form since the dawn of football in the 19th century. The term itself appears to date back to 1919 with Green Bay Packers fans. According to one source, fans would park their pickup trucks around the field and fold down their tailgates to sit on. Food and beverages completed the picture.

With the OSU-ASU kickoff getting closer, the group starts to think about getting into the stadium. Dan Gellatly, also a Philomath resident — heck, his family’s been in the vicinity for something like 150 years — is among them.

“My grandpa was an 1899 graduate of OAC (Oregon Agricultural College — as the school was called back then) and two sisters graduated ahead of him in 1896,” Gellatly said. “We have pretty deep roots here.”

Both Berklund and Gellatly have strong family connections to the university, including on the gridiron. Rod Berklund, Kevin’s dad, played in the Oregon State Rooks program as a tailback in the early 1960s after graduating from Philomath High. David Gellatly, the brother of Dan’s grandfather, lettered in football for OAC in 1901 and 1902.

Gellatly, an exceptional athlete himself at PHS who graduated in 1978, said after his daughter and son-in-law graduated in 2000, a tailgating tradition got started.

“It was fun to go over there and they had a tailgater going for quite a few years until the kids got into sports and so that’s when it stopped,” he said. “But it was like a tradition to come over.”

This latest tailgating and game experience likely ended up as a fun time for this Philomath group and other Beaver fans on Saturday night. Oregon State beat the Sun Devils, 24-10, and now look forward to a date with the Ducks.

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