Smurf Turf: A New BC Tailgate Tradition
Sadie Hawkins Day. Sledding down Rish Hall hill. Mud Pig Day. Now, the Smurf Turf just might soon become one of those Bluefield College traditions that alumni and students celebrate and remember for years to come.
May 20, 2013
The Smurf Turf: A new Bluefield College tradition, crafted by young alumni back on campus for the renewal of Rams football.
Alumni Andy Berry (left) and Jennifer Mitchell, creators of The Smurf Turf.
The San Francisco 49ers have Club 49. The New York Giants have The Big Blue Tailgate Crew. Even the University of Minnesota has its Gopher Hole.
But, nowhere can you find the uniqueness of The Smurf Turf, except at Bluefield College, where a group of young alumni decided to celebrate the return of intercollegiate football at the school after a 70-year hiatus by creating a tailgate group and tradition like no other.
Already famous for their spontaneous road trips from home in Richmond, Virginia, to their alma mater in Bluefield for concerts, reunions and other events, alumni Andy Berry (‘05), Nick Cockerham (‘07) and Jennifer Mitchell (‘08) arranged a trip back to BC in October 2011, this time for Homecoming festivities. The primary event on their Homecoming schedule: an intra-squad scrimmage game featuring the new Rams football team, playing an exhibition season in preparation for an intercollegiate campaign in 2012, the school’s first since 1941.
Berry, Cockerham and Mitchell planned to collect Aaron Peck (‘03) in Roanoke, Virginia, along the way and then reunite with former classmates Mark Hipes (‘03) and Ryan Moore (‘07) from Bluefield to throw together a tailgate party as part of their celebration, but little did they know that this tailgate would be more than just a celebration of the return of Rams football after more than 70 years. This tailgate, they’d soon learn, would involve a group name and even a food creation that just might become as traditional as BC’s Mud Pig Day or sledding down Rish Hall hill.
“We were just going to do hamburgers and hot dogs, just typical tailgate stuff,” said Mitchell about original plans for the reunion tailgate, “but then Andy calls me from Wal-Mart in Bluefield and says ‘we’re going to do something different, a signature recipe.’”
Berry scoured Pinterest for recipe ideas, but not for the traditional snack items. He wanted something the group could make and people would remember for years to come.
“Andy was looking for a crazy idea, something with a theme,” said Peck. “It was kind of a fluke that I ended up helping with the cooking. I just happened to be the first one up that morning, so I started cooking gravy.”
Peck took his traditional sausage gravy and biscuits to the tailgate. From there, they grilled kielbasa and green onions to add to the recipe. In true tailgate fashion, they doubled the portions and probably the calories and added a little Bluefield College and Rams football pride.
“Anybody can make biscuits and gravy,” said Berry, “but throwing that sausage link on top, adding the onions, and then covering it with another layer of gravy.”
The first to try the concoction: BC athletics director Peter Dryer, who said it was the “perfect” tailgate feast.
“I loved it. It was the perfect pre-game parking lot meal,” said Dryer. “It had the right amount of biscuits, gravy and sausage. It was very good.”
The young grads decided to give their new food creation a name. They came up with “Biscuits and Gravier” as a tribute to the school’s first football coach since Tony Lotito in 1941, Mike Gravier.
“We wanted to honor the man that brought football back to Bluefield,” said Berry about Coach Gravier, who spent three years reviving the BC football program before departing in the spring of 2013.
Berry and his fellow alumni also wanted to give their tailgate group an equally unique and memorable name. Together, they crafted “The Smurf Turf,” and proudly compared the beginning of the tailgate tradition to those as legendary as Club 49, The Big Blue Tailgate Crew or The Gopher Hole.
In fact, the group used a chalkboard to promote its unique tailgate name and menu, writing “The Smurf Turf: Home of the World Famous Biscuits and Gravier” on the board to draw the attention of fellow alumni, current students, faculty, staff, and other Ram supporters. And, rest assured, they were quick to correct partakers who called the food invention “biscuits and gravy.”
“I wasn’t the mastermind behind the idea. I was just there to eat it,” said Moore. “A lot of current students and other alumni came by our tailgate to see what was going on and to try some. They enjoyed it. They all said it was the first time they’d ever had biscuits and gravy at a tailgate.”
The Smurf Turf returned in the fall of 2012 for the Rams’ Homecoming football game against Lindsey Wilson College, but more importantly to carry on the tailgate tradition that they say could easily become as well known as BC’s Mud Pig Day or sledding down Rish Hall hill.
“I do see this becoming a tradition,” said Berry. “When you go to Lambeau Field to watch the Packers, you put a cheese wedge on your head. When you come to Mitchell Stadium to watch the Rams, you feast on Biscuits and Gravier.”