Every school aims to build a sense of community, and this community can grow even stronger when it is led by student ideas. Souhegan’s new addition of the Tailgate Club does just that. Started by two spirited senior boys, Alex Craven and Sam Bannon, the Tailgate Club has taken off in the past few weeks. Nothing has the ability to bring people together better than food and a good sports game. And the tailgate club doesn’t just support sports; the students also gathered around a grill before the fall play.
The idea for this club came upon Craven and Bannon as they wondered what to do before watching the Souhegan boys’ soccer game earlier this fall. They decided to set up a mini grill and lawn chairs in the parking lot and then go support the team together. The scene drew in a decent-sized group of people, and they were hit with a vision: Tailgate Club. The following day, Craven and Bannon filled out the paperwork, found a faculty adviser and created what has become one of Souhegan most popular clubs.
“Sam and I have always had a passion for unifying the school in fun and unique ways,” Craven said. “We always encourage people to get out and support all Souhegan events. We also both love food.” On club day, 55 students registered to be part of Tailgate Club, and today the email list includes more than 70 teachers, students and administrators.
“It’s fantastic because it completely eliminates cliques,” said senior founder Bannon. “It’s all based around the contributions of the group, from the things we grill to the music we listen to. The group dynamic is exceptional; every single person contributes something, and we always clean up super efficiently.”
The way that Tailgate Club works is before a big game, meet or other Souhegan event, Craven and Bannon wheel out one of the school’s grills into the parking lot. Before the event, people congregate by the grills and talk, pass the frisbee or play hacky-sack. Everyone who attends the tailgate is expected to provide one item. The contributions include the basics, such as hot dogs, hamburgers and condiments, but have also included baby-back ribs, bacon and homemade cream pies. Bannon and Craven have helped boost the contributions to the next level by adding an essence of competition.
“It’s a ton of fun!” said senior Elizabeth Silvia-Chandley, who was named MVP last week for her contribution of homemade mac and cheese. “I get to know a ton of new kids that I would never had gotten the chance to talk to. Also, it’s a great way to show our support for our school.”
Both Craven and Bannon say their first official tailgating event was their favorite. “The first official Tailgate Club event was in the pouring rain for a soccer game. Thirty people showed up. I thought I might have to cancel the ‘gate’ (as club members refer to it), but we set up a canopy tent and had the grill fired up with no problem,” Bannon said. “Tons of people were there with raincoats, and the energy we produced made us almost completely disregard the rain.”
Alex Cullen is a senior at Souhegan High School in Amherst.