A sea of black and gold highlights the tailgating scene before each University of Missouri football game. From shirts, to tents to plates, the Tigers are front and center throughout the campus.
There is a little red that stands out in that sea of black and gold – an Ohio State University flag owned by Bryan Garton. The flag flies right below a Mizzou one and begs the question – why?
“I have degrees from both MU and Ohio State, so I think it makes perfect sense to see them both up there together,” Garton said. “I think everyone else just kind of tolerates it.”
The flag helped Garton, CAFNR senior associate dean and director of academic programs, and his tailgating crew score a spot on ESPN a few years back. A handful of ESPN employees were driving around before kickoff and one noticed the flag. One of the ESPN employees started giving the group a hard time, eventually revealing that he, too, was a graduate of Ohio State.
“I wanted to know how he could help out a fellow Ohio State graduate,” Garton said. “He told us he’d put us on ESPN. He brought the camera crew over and we did the M-I-Z, Z-O-U chant. They used it as a segue into halftime, and we had a lot of people tell us that they saw us on there. It was only five seconds but it was still a lot of fun.”
This is just one of the numerous fun stories that Garton and Mark Langworthy, senior director for advancement, have shared through the years tailgating before Mizzou football games. The Garton family and the Langworthy family each had their own, smaller tailgates before joining forces more than six years ago.
“My wife, Debbie, and Mark’s wife, Jacki, played Bunco together,” Garton said. “That led to discussions about tailgating and we figured out that we both enjoyed partaking in that before games. It was pretty natural just to combine the two into a bigger tailgate.”
The families began tailgating together before Langworthy even joined CAFNR. He was working in the MU School of Law and came onboard with CAFNR in 2014. The tailgate is a family affair. Garton’s sons, Josh and Logan, and Langworthy’s sons, Joe (a CAFNR alum) and John, are regulars at the tailgate. Josh and John are former members of Marching Mizzou, and Logan is a current member of the band, meaning part of Marching Mizzou was always around.
“Bryan and I really play off of each other’s strengths,” Langworthy said. “Bryan is incredibly organized and the entire setup goes smoothly because of him. He’s a meticulous planner. I’m the foodie. I like to put on a big feast for everyone.”
Garton is tasked with making sure the tents, tables, chairs and other necessary tailgating items are available for game day. He packs his truck perfectly to ensure everything fits properly.
“Everything comes out of his truck in completely perfect order,” Langworthy said.
Everyone has a job during the setup phase. Langworthy takes care of the main course, which is always some form of meat. Sides are matched with the main course. The menu varies from game to game. Garton and Langworthy sit down before the season begins and try to map out what will be on the menu for each home game. They try to theme it according the MU’s opponent.
“We try to base it on the team as much as we can,” Garton said. “We had gator and fish when we played the (University of) Florida Gators. We’ll do pork when we play Arkansas. This year, for the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks, we smoked chicken. It’s always fun coming up with the menu.”
For the upcoming Homecoming game, which will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, against the University of Memphis, the plan is barbeque.
“We can’t do anything Tiger related, since, as you know, we’re the Tigers,” Langworthy said. “We’re planning on doing baby back ribs, which are kind of my specialty. Our goal is to show that Kansas City barbeque is better than Memphis barbeque.”
Game time plays a big role in what the menu contains as well. For an 11 a.m. game, breakfast is the focus. Later game times allow for ribs, chicken or pork.
“Sometimes we’ll just do burgers and brats, which there is nothing wrong with,” Langworthy said. “We really just do our best to poke a little fun at our opponent.”
While the gates open plenty early for each game, Garton and Langworthy arrive a couple hours earlier so they can claim their spot. They arrive around 6:15 a.m. and are generally anywhere from 13th to 20th in line.
“One day I went up and asked the first guy in line what time he got there,” Garton said. “He’s always the first in line and has been for years. He told us he is there at 2 a.m. That’s some dedication.”
The tailgate takes place in Lot N, southwest of Faurot Field. The location gives the crew an opportunity to spread out. Garton brings a few games, such as washers or cornhole. They set up a TV as well, which is generally tuned in to SEC Nation.
“For someone like me, who is a big MU Tiger fan, this is why I’m in Columbia,” Langworthy said. “I love college football – and I love getting out to watch the Tigers in action.”
Garton and Langworthy are always happy to have Tiger fans stop by and say hello.
“You’re always welcome to stop by and chat with us,” Langworthy said. “Most of the time we have plenty of food to go around.”