A different party every game-day weekend.
Not content to make just a day of a game, not willing to worry about hotel availability, they drive their beds to Morgantown with them. And their kitchens. And their front porches.
They are the hosts of the two-day tailgate.
Lots where these pavement partiers have paid many hundreds of dollars for season permits—Blue, Light Blue, Red, and Green—become their own neighborhoods, some with little turnover from season to season.
But the Black Lot beside the Coliseum—$80 for a single-game pass—is a different party every game-day weekend. Zealous fans who bought their RVs just for this purpose unfurl their outdoor rugs beside longtime KOAers who trundle into town once every few years. The rumble of generators competes with the Pride of West Virginia’s Friday evening marching practice, exhaust mingles with the scents of grilling steaks and shrimp, and temporary neighbors challenge each other to games of cornhole into the night.
The 109 RVs chocked here for the September 22 Kansas State game was a Black Lot record. Morgantown magazine dropped by before the Youngstown State and Kansas State games to meet some of these mobile Mountaineers.
Terry & Joe Gilbert
Terry Gilbert and her husband, Joe, have been driving from Orlean, Virginia, to attend WVU football games since their daughter started school here in 2009. “When we first came here we said, ‘It’s like a family,’” Gilbert says. “The school, the campus, the people—it’s no lie.” The drive takes them about four hours—the opening of Corridor H has saved them an hour and a half over the earlier drive time. How much have these “East Virginians” become Mountaineers? “Our 4-year-old granddaughter can sing ‘Country Roads,’” Gilbert says.
The Gilberts used to tailgate in the Blue Lot, then the Purple Lot. This is their first year in the Black Lot. “We’re moving up in the world,” Joe Gilbert jokes. They like to drive in on Friday morning and take time Friday afternoon for a bike ride on the Mon River rail-trail.
The evening before the September 8 game against Youngstown State, they were cooking Asian chicken thighs with broccoli for dinner on their pull-out kitchen, with their “special secret spinach salad.” They both laughed at that. Inside joke. When it rained as we were walking around meeting RVers, they loaned us an umbrella. Thanks, Gilberts!
Brian Hoban & Rosenberth Lopez
Keyser native Brian Hoban graduated from WVU at Potomac State in Keyser, and his youngest daughter recently graduated from WVU in Morgantown. Rosenberth Lopez is dating Hoban’s eldest daughter, and he hung out in the Black Lot with Hoban Friday night before the Youngstown State game.
Hoban’s been coming to Morgantown to watch the Mountaineers his whole life. He used to set up in the Blue Lot and drive home after the game. He hated the traffic. Now he’s in his second year kicking back in the Black Lot with his Fleetwood Bounder motorhome. “No traffic in and out,” he says. “Makes it more relaxed.”
Bruce Fowler grew up in Charleston and attended Fairmont State. He almost became a graduate student at WVU but, by the time things were falling into place for that, he’d moved to Charleston instead. His first WVU football game was against the University of Kentucky in the late 1960s, when he was a junior in high school. But he’d already been a Mountaineers fan for years by then—he’d seen Jerry West play basketball at the Charleston Civic Center when he was 5.
Fowler remembers when I-79 opened between Charleston and Morgantown—he and a friend drove up in his friend’s red Corvette in a very quick two and a half hours. He used to stay in motels when he came to WVU games. After that, he had a smaller RV. He says the one he has now is the biggest one he’s going to get. We’ll see.
1980 alum Russ Hagy drove in from Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his brand new TAG teardrop trailer for the September 22 game against Kansas State. His trailer is pretty much all bed inside, with air conditioning and a flat screen TV. Out back—get it?—it opens into a surprisingly complete little kitchen. Hagy is loving life.
Suzy Stafford graduated from WVU and has two sons attending WVU. Her friend Anita Morgan has a granddaughter here, and the Youngstown State game was Morgan’s first tailgate. The friends drove up from Oceana, in southern West Virginia, for the game—about a four-hour drive. Stafford used to stay in hotels game-day weekends but, three years ago, she bought her 30-foot Palomino
Puma travel trailer. She stores the RV in town and doesn’t have to deal with hotels anymore. “Saves money, more convenient, more fun,” she says.
If the Youngstown State and Kansas State games are an indication, Stafford brings blueberry and banana-pineapple Jell-O shooters made with Myers’s rum every time. They’re tasty—we know, because she shared. It’s her tradition to grill steaks on Friday as a treat for her sons. The night before Youngstown State, she also cooked shrimp and garlic bread and served a salad.
Tim & Steven Cowie
Steven Cowie is a senior in accounting, and it’s hard to imagine a prouder Mountaineer—he’s only missed two home games his entire time in school. “I live and breathe this university,” he says. His father, Tim, is from Charleston, and he’s been a Mountaineer fan his whole life. They made a father-son weekend of the Youngstown State game. Their Friday night feast included a Morgantown favorite—chicken wings from Mario’s—and they were looking forward to a gourmet game-day breakfast of biscuits and sausage.
photographed by Zack Harold and Carla Witt Ford