If you've ever been to an Ohio State University football game and gotten to the campus well in advance, one thing really stands out.
The atmosphere outside Ohio Stadium is one of the best you'll ever experience because nearly every lot or blade of grass within walking distance of the Horseshoe is covered by tailgaters.
St. John Central graduates Alan Horvath, Greg Chillog, Ryan Forgacs, along with Laura Horvath (Edison graduate) and another SJC alumnus, Anita Chillog, have been part of the Ohio State pre-game atmosphere since their graduation from the university.
ST. JOHN Central
graduates Alan Horvath (left) and Greg Chillog host one of the biggest Ohio?Valley
tailgates at Ohio State University football games. Their party is
located in the parking lot behind French Fieldhouse. Also pictured is Horvath’s son Cole.
The Ohio Valley natives host one of the biggest - and most impressive - tailgate parties in a parking lot behind French Field House, which is just 200 or so yards from the main entrance at Ohio Stadium.
In Ohio State tailgating, the lot behind French Field House is considered a prime-time spot because of its proximity.
"The French Field House pass is an extremely rare and difficult parking pass to obtain given the fact that (OSU) requires a $5,000 donation now to even be eligible," Horvath said. "Ryan donates the pass to us each year through his business, Main Event Ticket, and we entertain his clients in return."
There's certainly plenty of entertainment available at the party, but it doesn't come together at a moment's notice by any stretch of the imagination.
As much time as the players and coaches put into preparing for the season, weekly tailgaters are basically investing the same.
"Planning begins in mid-summer," Horvath said. "My wife and I get together with the Chillogs and set the menu for each game. Plus, we've kept logs each year of every game on how many people attend, which is big because we know exactly how many people we can plan on entertaining."
On game days, Horvath and Chillog, who are in charge of setup, arrive on campus between 5 and 6 a.m., regardless of what time kickoff is that week because their actual spot isn't reserved.
"No one has ever beaten us to the punch in those 11 years, but you never know when a tailgating nomad may try to set up in our spot," Horvath said. "It usually takes us two hours to set up the whole area."
Getting all of their necessary supplies to OSU each week has gotten a lot easier since the tailgaters invested in a trailer.
"The trailer lets us keep everything organized," Horvath explained. "Most people don't believe we can get everything we have at the tailgate loaded back into the trailer, but we know exactly how it gets packed back up."
Once the trailer has been emptied and everything set up, it can double as an indoor bar area as well as an entertainment complex.
"We try to create an outdoor man cave experience," Horvath said.
The tailgate features no fewer than four flat-screen televisions set up throughout the confines of the party. This season, a new 42-inch television was hung via chains from a tree, which, according to Horvath, "accommodates a new area of tailgaters."
Much like the teams change game plans, Horvath and company change their approach each week both in terms of the entertainment and menu.
"Each year, we try to change a few things to keep it fresh and keep people guessing," Horvath said. "Many people who stop by each week like to stop and see what's new."
Each game has a different menu theme, including barbecue, Mexican, Italian, Thanksgiving theme (during Michigan week) and there are breakfast foods available.
"My wife (Laura) and Anita Chillog have a whole network of women who attend every week and they get a copy of what's being served, so that they can bring an appropriate side dish," Horvath said. "The making of the side dishes begins early in the week, but the amount of food needed is based on many variables, including opponent, weather and game time."
The tailgate has become a hub for Ohio Valley natives to re-connect over the years. According to Horvath, the party has hosted folks from Bellaire, Martins Ferry, St. Clairsville, Steubenville, Edison, Bridgeport, Wheeling Central, Shady-side, Buckeye Local and St. John Central.
"It's become a common meeting place, given its proximity to the stadium and sense of valley pride," Horvath said. "We get a lot of people back, who now live out of state, but make it to a game or two each year."