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Pirate tailgaters prove they are all-weather fans

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Tailgaters use tents to shield themselves from the drizzling rain before the East Carolina University football game against Western Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. (Abbey Mercando/The Daily Reflector)


Holly West

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Muddy tailgating lots and drizzling rain didn’t stop Pirate football fans from breaking out their purple and gold tents for the first game of the season.

Beaufort native Logan Whitehurst, who attended ECU in the late 60s and 70s, said Pirate fans are known for their weather-resistance. 

“There’s that phrase: East Carolina has never lost at tailgating,” he said. 

Heavy rainfall caused by tropical storm Hermine overnight had faded to a light drizzle by the time tailgaters were getting settled in for an afternoon of grilling, chatting and playing cornhole in advance of the 6 p.m. kickoff of ECU’s game against Western Carolina University.

Hermine brought wind and rain, but no major damage was reported, said Pitt County Emergency Management Director Allen Everette.

“We were fortunate last night here in the county,” he said. “We did get reports of just a couple small trees down throughout the region. There was just a small power outage reported. Overall, the vast majority of everyone fared well.” 

According to Greenville Utilities Commission spokesman Steve Hawley, fewer than 250 customers experienced outages during the storm, and crews and support staff worked all through the night to get them restored by early morning.

As a precaution, ECU officials pushed the opening of the parking lots from noon to 2 p.m. to account for flood drainage or the cleaning up of debris, but tailgaters reported some lots actually opened up about 1 p.m.

Whitehurst and his friends Harold Barnes and Bill Turcotte have followed Pirate football since 1962 and tailgated at the Elmhurst Elementary School lot for the past 15 years. 

“We’re die-hards,” Whitehurst said. “We’re the last to leave and, usually, we’re the first to get here.”

Turcotte said tailgating is a great place for old friends to reminisce about the good ole’ days, like when three-piece suits were a requirement for attending pre-game events, as well as making new friends and memories.

“You go to somebody else’s tent and they’ve got somebody they know, and you get a chance to meet them and you see them other places around Greenville or eastern North Carolina,” he said. 

It’s not just Pitt County residents who have a passion for tailgating. Wilmington resident Rick Decrescente, whose daughter attended ECU, has tailgated at almost every home game for the past five years. 

“I’m from upstate New York, and I never experienced college football until Pirate Nation as far as being at it,” said Decrescente, who moved to North Carolina with his family six years ago. “My first experience, I really loved it.” 

Now, he doesn’t miss a game, rain or shine. 

“We get to know all the people around us,” he said. “It’s a great way to bring friends to games, which we do. Plus we love Pirate football.”

Decrescente tailgated in the Dowdy-Ficklen lot Saturday afternoon, just a few spaces away from first-time tailgater Samantha Hirte, who recently moved to Greenville to pursue her teaching license at ECU.

Hirte, who is from Knoxville, was being introduced to the art of tailgating by her aunt and uncle, Greenville residents who have been attending ECU football games for 25 years. Like many Pirate fans, neither attended ECU.

“It’s interesting to see how big of a fan base it has even for people who didn’t go to school here,” Hirte said.


Contact Holly West at hwest@reflector.com or 252-329-9585.