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|Amber Brooks • 1/31/18|
The Short Version: Since its founding in 1945, Johnsonville Sausage has become a tailgating staple for many football-loving families throughout the US. In 2016, the Southeastern Conference named Johnsonville its official tailgate sausage, kicking off a satisfying relationship with sports fans from Florida to Kentucky. The Johnsonville team now seeks to give back to SEC fans by throwing one lucky couple a lavish tailgate wedding with all the fixin’s. Any engaged couple who loves football can enter to win an all-inclusive wedding that will take place on their favorite SEC campus during game day. It’s going to be so much fun, SEC network analyst and professional athlete Tim Tebow has even agreed to come and cheer the couple on. Johnsonville’s team will handle all of the big day’s arrangements (from lodging to transportation), provide 10 tickets to the game, and give the couple $18,500 as a wedding present. What an exciting way for SEC fans to kick off a relationship with a future spouse!
My parents are die-hard Gator football fans. I’m talking never-missed-a-game, in-all-kinds-of-weather, cheer-their-lungs-out fans. Over 35 years ago, they got season tickets with their college friends, and my dad kept five of those tickets because he dreamed of going to the games with his wife and kids one day. And that’s exactly what we do.
Every game day, you’ll find us gathered around a TV watching pre-game coverage, betting on what the first offensive play will be and eating barbecued food hot off the grill. In the last 10 years, we’ve tailgated out of a van, in an RV, and even in a hotel room. We’ve driven through hurricanes just to add our voices to the “get up and go” cheer. University of Florida football has given us a reason to get together and have a great time on hundreds of weekends, and that makes it absolutely priceless.
When Johnsonville Sausage became the official tailgating sausage of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 2016, Johnsonville team members took the time to listen to the fans and understand what made the sport so special to so many people. Their man-to-man coverage on social media and at SEC tailgating events gave the sausage company an inside look at how the South kicks football tailgating up a notch with Cajun dishes, hot dogs, meatballs, and other savory barbecue dishes.
“The SEC fan base takes football very seriously,” said Stephanie Dlugopolski, Johnsonville’s Public Relations and Social Media Manager. “Some take it so seriously that they plan their weddings, babies, and other life events around football season.”
Johnsonville recognized the huge importance SEC football has for countless families and decided to get in on the fun by helping one engaged couple have a beautiful fall wedding without missing kickoff. In the 2018 football season, Johnsonville’s team is going to throw a full-fledged tailgate wedding and reception on game day for one lucky couple in the SEC. The big event will take place on campus at the SEC university of your choice, and Gator football legend Tim Tebow will be in attendance.
Johnsonville is currently accepting submissions from couples who root for Southeastern teams and don’t want game day to interfere with their big day. You can put your name into the running by filling out an online entry form. The submission period will close on May 6, 2018 at 11:59 p.m, and then a panel of judges will go through the entries and announce the winner in July. So far, over 250 couples have entered the contest, and the Johnsonville team is looking forward to seeing hundreds more go for the Hail Mary and share their love of football with a dedicated community of fans.
“To us it’s more than just a contest,” Stephanie said. “It’s a chance to celebrate couples starting a new life around their love of SEC football.”
Tim Tebow needs no introduction to Gator football fans. From 2006 to 2009, the Heisman-winning quarterback dominated on the football field and led the Gators to two national championships. Now the pro athlete is known throughout the nation as an SEC Network football analyst, but I’ll always think of him as the cheerful guy I saw making a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich in the dining hall one day.
I was a student at UF during the height of Tebow’s reign, so my friends and I have spent a fair bit of time talking about what it’d be like to have the famed quarterback at our weddings. In our imaginations, he was more of a leading man, but having him in attendance as a guest would be pretty thrilling too, so it’s awesome to see him partnering with Johnsonville to give an SEC couple a special wedding gift.
Stephanie said Tebow was a natural choice to be the face of Johnsonville’s Tailgate Wedding Contest because of his enthusiasm for football, tailgate food, and the fans.
While Tebow worked as an analyst for the SEC Network last year, Johnsonville’s team members got to know him on a personal level and would even send him some of their sausage links to munch on before and after the broadcast. His lively sense of humor and general amiability made him the perfect partner for the company’s unique wedding contest. He excitedly agreed to come as a guest for the tailgate wedding and has been diligently promoting it on various social media channels.
“He’s been great at elevating the contest and engaging the SEC fans,” Stephanie said. “He’s really made it fun for everyone, and he’s had a lot of fun with it too.”
Some engaged couples would love a temperate fall wedding, but they can’t ask their friends and family to miss an SEC football weekend — and they often don’t want to miss out on it either. Johnsonville tackled this issue by blending football fever and wedding planning in a one-of-a-kind contest for SEC fans nationwide.
Any couple planning on getting married in 2018 can enter Johnsonville’s Tailgate Wedding Contest by submitting their names, engagement date, email address, and the names of their two favorite SEC teams.
Next, you’ll upload pictures (no more than five) of you and your future spouse tailgating, watching football, or supporting your favorite SEC teams. Whether you’re at the stadium or in lawn chairs, the Johnsonville team wants to see what game day means to you and your significant other.
Couples must also answer two open-ended questions about how football has impacted their relationships. First, you’ll describe why you need a tailgate wedding in no more than 200 words. Does football season pose challenges to your 2018 wedding date? Tell Johnsonville about it, and the team might just have the answer to your problems.
The second question is simple: Share the story of how you got engaged. You’ve probably told this story hundreds of times to friends, families, and complete strangers, so the only tough part is getting it down to 200 words.
That’s all. It’s pretty easy to enter the contest and make your case to the judges (only one entry per couple). All you and your intended have to do is highlight your devotion to SEC football. Got a picture of you two in full face paint? Submit it. Did your man propose to you on game day? Tell the team about it. Johnsonville’s panel of judges will be looking for passionate couples who can’t get enough of football season. They’ll grade the entry based on its eloquence, adherence to the engagement theme, and originality.
You have until May 6, 2018, to tell your story and put yourself in the running for an unforgettably amazing wedding day.
My brother and sister-in-law got married on UF campus in 2014 (the wedding party took photos in the football stadium!), and it was pretty special to see them show their Gator pride on such an important part of their day. If it had been game day, our excitement would’ve been cranked up to a whole new level. Instead of being on an empty middle-of-summer campus, we’d be right in the middle of the action and could celebrate our love for the Gators and their love for each other at the same time.
In the fall of 2018, Johnsonville’s tailgate professionals will go the whole nine yards to give the winning couple a day they won’t soon forget. The contest winners will get all the wedding accouterments, from a professional photographer to capture all the special moments to a fully catered reception on the world’s largest grill for up to 100 guests — including Tim Tebow who will come to the wedding to congratulate the couple in person.
“We hope to get the larger Johnsonville team involved to plan a memorable event.” — Stephanie Dlugopolski, Johnsonville PR and Social Media Manager
Not only will Johnsonville arrange for one lucky couple to get married on a SEC school campus during game day, the big day will come complete with an officiant, videographer, photographer, lodging arrangements for two nights, transportation for the wedding party (maximum eight people), a catered tailgate-style reception, and 10 tickets to the game. Plus, as a wedding gift, the couple will receive $18,500 in cash.
All in all, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event for SEC fans tying the knot in 2018, and it’s going to take a lot of committed folks on Johnsonville’s team to pull off such a beautiful and original tailgate wedding. “We hope to get the larger Johnsonville team involved,” Stephanie said, “to plan a memorable event centered around family, friends, good times, and a life milestone.”
On autumn Saturdays, SEC universities become hubs of activity. The smoky smell of good old-fashioned tailgate foods mingles with the laughter and cheers of fans wearing all different colors but feeling a similar school pride and community spirit. If you’re going to a game at the Swamp, you may see my family playing cornhole as we await kick-off or high-fiving strangers after a touchdown. SEC game days bring so many loved ones together, and it’s only natural to want to have that same kind of joy, enthusiasm, and shared bond on your wedding day.
Since 1945, Johnsonville has served up a good time to people around the world, and in 2018, the team decided to live up to its name as the SEC’s official tailgate sausage by throwing an original game-day wedding bash for one lucky couple. The company’s sponsored Tailgate Wedding Contest combines people’s love for SEC football, barbecue treats, and romance into an event like no other. Hundreds of couples have already rushed to submit their names and tell their engagement stories online in hopes of seeing Tim Tebow show up and do a victory dance on their big day this fall.
“We’re just really excited to see who’s entered,” Stephanie said. “It’s inspirational to hear the fans’ engagement stories. We’ll put some of their stories up on the website soon, so everyone can see how amazing SEC fans are.”