When the Alcoa Tornadoes and Maryville Rebels football teams play each other on Aug. 27, a champion will emerge from the competition…in the parking lot.
The Go Big or Go Home Champions Tailgate will give fans from both teams a chance to show-off their school spirit and win prizes for the best tailgating display. The main goal, however, is to raise funds for United Way.
Michelle Hankes, president and CEO of the United Way of Blount County, said the idea came out a “brainstorm” of Boyce Smith, manager of the Alcoa Wal-Mart. Hankes said she was en route to Nashville on July 29 when a staffer called and told her Smith had an idea about a way to raise needed funds for this year’s United Way campaign, which officially kicks off Friday, Aug. 26, with a breakfast at the Airport Hilton.
“Someone on my staff said Boyce had an idea and that we would talk about it at the United Way golf tournament,” Hankes said.
At the golf tournament two days later, Smith brought together a team of volunteers and laid out his idea. Hankes said Smith already had everything lined up. “Boyce is an amazing community donor, mover, shaker and volunteer extraordinaire. He’ll hate that I recognized him like that, but it is true, and we thank him,” she said.
Smith’s idea was to take the community spirit and the excitement of the Alcoa-Maryville game and offer something fun that would also raise funds for United Way.
In addition, it was a way to tie-in the excitement of the visit of NFL Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, who will attend the game, deliver the game ball and flip the coin during the coin toss. Rice will appear as a representative of Kellogg’s.
From that committee meeting was born the Go Big or Go Home Champions Tailgate.
The Go Big or Go Home Champions Tailgate will work like this:
• Interested families, individuals or groups can reserve a tailgate spot at Springbrook Pool parking lot. They can fix their spot as a place to eat, relax or pass out information about their group or organization.
• A $20 donation to United Way gets the tailgater two parking spots to set up his or her tailgate, with the option to buy up to two more for $10 each.
• The parking lot opens for tailgaters at 10 a.m. Judging begins at noon and prizes are awarded at 2 p.m. Alcoa High School will open the gates to the stadium at 3 p.m. for the 7 p.m. game. Officials are expecting a sell-out crowd.
• For the tailgate, there is no electricity and no water. No alcohol will be allowed. Pre-registration is strongly advised as tailgating slots will be assigned on a first-come/first-served basis.
• Local celebrity judges will judge the tailgate competition based on team spirit, recycling efforts and sportsmanship.
• Each team can designate four “captains” to win the prize. The winning team will receive prize packages from Kellogg, four $25 gift cards from WalMart and a Jerry Rice autographed football for each of the four team captains.
Hankes said having a tailgate at the Alcoa-Maryville game made sense.
“It’s a big game and a great chance for folks from Maryville, Alcoa and Blount County to get behind our youth,” she said. “The programs the United Way funds are very frequently focused on making kids successful. When you watch these kids being successful on the football field, it brings home how important it is to be successful off the football field.”
Lea Anne Law, the 2011 United Way of Blount County campaign chair, loved the idea. “I’m really excited it. This is a new event for United Way to sponsor, and it is a great opportunity for fans to come out and support their team while at the same time supporting United Way,” she said.
Law said it will be an opportunity for some people who might not be familiar with or involved with United Way to be involved and participate in a United Way special event.
“The game is very close to the community’s heart. Both teams are champions, and this is a great time to involve more teenagers in United Way,” she said.
The tailgate hosts will be Bill Kilgore, who is president of the Boys and Girls Club of Blount County. Kilgore said planning the tailgate competition for the Maryville-Alcoa game was a smart idea.
“It is really the biggest thing that happens in our county in August sports-wise. You get two teams that are No. One in their classification each year, and they get the opportunity to play each other,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to being a part of an event that could help pull our community together.”
Blount Today Sports Radio and its sports partner ESPN Radio 1180 will broadcast a pre-game show from the tailgate venue.
Applications are available online at the United Way of Blount County website at www.Unitedwayofblountcounty.org. Teams must pre-register to be involved in the competition. The event is sponsored by United Way of Blount County, Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation, Blount Today, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Blount Today, Blount Today Sports Radio and ESPN Radio.
All proceeds will go to benefit United Way of Blount County. For additional information, call the United Way office at 865-982-2251.