Every home game they meet on the corner of Bluff Road and Rosewood Drive -- two blocks north of Williams-Brice Stadium -- to celebrate their love of all things South Carolina football. They caravan together for road games. But they also celebrate what the group has become over the decades.
You can identify them by the banner that proclaims them The Ultimate Tailgaters. They have hats and polo shirts with their logo. They've won national tailgating competitions. Fulmer's barbecue has won national awards. Anyone is welcome to stop by and say hi, have a cold one, do a little line dancing and join in the pre-meal prayer. But once you're in, you can't leave until Chris' wife, Kathy, gives you a hug. And you won't leave hungry.
"We've lost a lot of games over the years, but we've never lost a tailgate. We're something like 250-0," says Fulmer, 52, who has only missed one game since 1970, and that was to get married. "It was in 1981, and I think we lost to Ole Miss, 17-10." I checked the record book. It was 20-13, but who's counting?
The Ultimate Tailgaters are but one grain of sand on a beach of friends and loved ones who come out to see the Gamecocks play each week or go on the road to support their team. They come to the Fairgrounds and Farmers Market to tip a few, grill a few and eat some boiled peanuts. There are hundreds of stories like the Ultimate Tailgaters. Football is simply the mechanism that brings them all together.
Florida was in town, so fried Gator was on several tailgating menus (it's like chicken and calamari were cross-bred in a vat of boiling oil). "Sandstorm" cranked throughout the stadium. The Gamecocks won, though all of college football was still buzzing about the Miracle at Jordan-Hare – which was shown numerous times on the $7.5 million video board.
Congressman Joe Wilson even swung by the Ultimate Tailgaters tent to stump a little and share some passionate stories about the Gamecocks.
"Some of us have been fans for 50 years," he said. "48 of those have been waiting for the next year. What's happening here is special."
And he wasn't just talking about what happens on the field.
"If we win, we're excited," said Schooler, 54. "If we don't, we don't. But you can't ever take away what we have here."
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Taking a sharp left turn off Washington Street onto Spring Road, the Highty-Tighties get closer and closer to their destination. As Virginia Tech's military band continues its journey, their march toward Lane Stadium sends a clear message to everyone around them without the use of words.
Tailgating is over; it's time to get to business.
Dressed in orange and maroon, many lingering fans quickly file into Lane Stadium with the knowledge that kickoff is nearing. The normal pregame excitement and anticipation that precedes any college football game fills the air as students and alumni alike prepare for three hours of Hokies football.
It's just another Saturday in the fall, with little sign of the pandemonium that is on the horizon.