Smeared face paint and laughter marked another tailgate party at Liberty University. These parties are meant to prepare students to support their school’s football team in the upcoming game, but they also serve to unite students around campus as they fellowship together.
According to Mark Hyde, Liberty’s student conduct officer, campus leaders ensure that no student at Liberty be left out of these events. Tailgating opportunities are offered for each dorm, along with commuter and alumni tailgates. An open invitation is also extended to Liberty’s online students as well as family and friends of the university.
“I’m from California, and here at Liberty, the tailgate parties are a lot more fun,” Rebekah Brewer-Padilla, a transfer student, said. “There’s more fellowship, and we pray before meals.”
Tailgate parties offer students the chance to connect through games such as cornhole, frisbee, soccer or volleyball. These parties also have music and offer many types of food for the students to enjoy together.
Commuters gathered Saturday for their party in the parking lot of Thomas Road Baptist Church. Unlike the students who live on campus, the commuters of Liberty were notified of the gathering through emails and Facebook messages. The commuter tailgate party was hosted as an outreach opportunity by commuter services of the Student Affairs office, under the direction of Keith Anderson, the dean of students.
“These parties are a great way for the students to get involved with Liberty,” Mark Hyde said. “The tailgate parties allow students to meet other commuter students and grow relationships with their fellow commuters whom they already know.”
Laughing and sitting in the grass together, the commuter students enjoyed meeting each other before heading to the Liberty football game.
“My favorite part is the food and the friends,” Amber Helms, a commuter at Liberty, said.
Hyde said that this tailgate party provided the commuters with the unique opportunity to learn new ways to connect with Liberty while living off campus.
The front lawn of the Hancock Welcome Center was the location of another tailgate party at Liberty. The alumni of Liberty may no longer be enrolled in classes, but they still play a role in the running of Liberty’s campus, including the tailgate parties offered at each home game.
“Alumni that are willing to come back to campus are the kind of alumni that are going to be more connected and involved with the programs and decisions we will make in the future as a university,” Mark Watkins, senior alumni officer, said.
“The alumni are still seeing kids that are at Liberty because they love Jesus and they want to make a difference wherever they end up in the world and whatever job they end up doing,” Watkins said. “It encourages the alumni to stay involved with Liberty.”
The alumni can also provide contacts for present students to help them become involved in possible internships or job opportunities, according to Watkins.
Ultimately, Liberty tries to make tailgating more than just grilling food in a parking lot. There are three more home football games on the schedule for Liberty students and alumni to find the tailgate party for them.