TailgateUtah Pig Bus
WE: “I was traveling for a game and started gathering inspiration from all of these crazy tailgates. I found a website with old school buses and talking to the people that would have these buses, because we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We knew it could get rowdy, so we wanted it to be indestructible. Plus, we had to get a commercial license to drive it.”
WE: “I found a bus in Oakland, this old artist used it to transport her massive pieces of art. I called her and said I wanted to buy her bus, so we go and drive the sucker back. It took us like, three days.”
RL: “Welby called me when he was driving it back, he called me as he was going over Donner’s Pass, and he said he was going 5 miles per hour and even giant logging trucks were passing him. It was really beat up when we found it.”
WE: “We got it to Utah, it took us about three months to gut it and clear out everything. It was a lot of work. It made its debut in Kyle Whittingham’s first year.”
RL: “Now there’s a lot of buses—there’s a fire truck, a hearse. But we were the first bus. All of the buses that came after us came and looked at what we did and we gave advice, because we want to make Utah tailgating huge.”
RL: We’ve done a lot of amazing foods. The pig is kind of our calling card. But we try to do different foods along with our opponents. When Utah played TCU, we cooked up frog legs. Now we’re in the Pac-12, we sometimes cook ducks when we play Oregon, beaver stew when we play Oregon State, stuff like that.”
RL: “Generally, we cook the pig and take donations so we cover our costs, we don’t make any money on it.”
RL: “When College GameDay came, we asked if we could cook for it. The athletic department was all about it, so we had this massive cookout where we cooked our pigs and fed hundreds of people. So, we set up in President’s Circle and prepared all of this food. It takes a lot of work, but we have passionate friends that are always helping out, so by the time GameDay came, it was just a matter of organization.”
Devoid of a professional football team, Utahns hankering for a football fix in their home state fulfill their fandom by supporting Division I college programs—BYU, University of Utah, Utah State University and the like. The University of Utah in particular prides itself in having one of the largest pregame tailgating gatherings in the west. The pregame festivities, which can begin before dusk on gameday, sprawl over the entirety of Guardsman Way, in pockets on the university campus and along a portion of 500 South. Pop-up tents, campers, grills, buses and thousands of fans gather to show their support for the Utes.
Tailgating before Utah home games wasn’t always so grandiose or centralized, however. Ryan Lufkin and Welby Evangelista, alumni and best friends from the University of Utah, raised the bar in the early 2000’s. That opportunity came way by transforming a rundown school bus into a red-painted, pig-roasting mobile machine, nicknamed the “Utah Pig Bus.”
RL: “Welby and I went to (the University of) Michigan in 2002, the first time Utah played them in the Big House.”
WE: “Awe. We were in awe.”
RL: “You walk up for a mile around the stadium, and every square inch of grass has a tailgate and a barbecue on it. As you’re walking up, everyone is nice, they’re handing you food, they’re handing you beer, and we said, ‘why don’t we do this?’”
RL: “So we came back to Utah, set up on 500 South with a little pig roast and started tailgating. People kept going, ‘how’d you get this spot?’ We just kind of showed up, that’s how. Finally, it got to be pretty big so the university asked us to move into the tailgate lot. It wasn’t big at the time, but (former Utah head coach) Urban Meyer made it to be big.”
WE: “Utah’s tailgate wasn’t anything special (before Urban Meyer). There were tents and people camped out, and the athletic department would look the other way about any drinking. They wouldn’t promote the drinking, but they didn’t do anything about it either. It was sort of a free-for-all.”
RL: “When Urban got here, Welby tried every variation of Urban Meyer’s email address—u. meyer, urbanmeyer, meyer.urban, everything. He said, ‘hey, we want to cook a pig for the Polynesian linemen on our team.’ Then all of the sudden he gets a response from Urban and he said, ‘that sounds awesome, let’s do it.’ So we cooked two pigs in Urban Meyer’s backyard and fed the whole team. All of the Polynesians started bagging up the hooves and bones and they all loved it, so we started cooking for the team for about ten years after that.”
WE: “We want to make Utah tailgating huge. We’ve pleaded with the athletic department to close off Guardsman Way so when the players do the Ute Walk from the facility to the stadium, they can walk through the tailgating and see the atmosphere and how everyone is cheering for them. Or, another idea we have is to move the tailgating to President’s Circle altogether. Either way, the demand for tailgating is so high now, and Utah football has a good product, so why not try and capitalize on that?”
16 tablespoons of salted butter
Two 28- to 32-ounce bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
2 medium onions, finely diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups grated cheese (Mixture of Monterey Jack and Cheddar)
2 cups sour cream
12 pieces of bacon
4 cups kettle-cooked potato chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease each 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. Take the potatoes out of the freezer while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients.
- Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, then melt 14 tablespoons of the butter in it. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to soften for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir. Cook for a minute or two to cook out the raw flour, but do not let it color. Whisk in the milk, making sure to get out all the lumps. Add the broth and whisk again if there are still lumps. Bring the mixture to a simmer and allow it to thicken, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and stir in 4 cups cheese and sour cream. Add the hash brown potatoes and mix. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup remaining cheese.
- In a small pan cook the bacon until crispy. Remove bacon and chop into small pieces. Reserve approximately two tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan. Put the potato chips in a bowl and crush the potato chips. Pour into the pan with the bacon grease and toss to coat. Sprinkle both the crumbs and the bacon over the top of the potatoes.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking until golden brown on top and bubbling around the edges, about 15 minutes more. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.