If your social calendar just got a little busier, you can thank Diego Montoya. It was the Duncan High School sophomore quarterback’s idea to start holding tailgate parties and the idea has really caught fire.
The first one, held Sept. 9, celebrated the football, volleyball and cheer teams, and was a big success. The next one, scheduled for Thursday, is expected to be an even larger event, said Montoya’s mom, Jimie Jones.
Here’s what happened. Montoya was chatting with Rick Ellis, the Wildkats’ new principal/athletic director about the football team parties his mom had started throwing at their house the day before every game. Montoya talked about how his 20-plus teammates would gather out in his backyard and on the patio with a few of their friends and chow down on whatever food his mom would serve.
“He told me ‘We should do a tailgate at the school’ and I thought that was a great idea, but I decided to take it a little bit further,” Ellis said. “ I said ‘Do you think the community would want to do a tailgate at the school the day before?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I think a lot of people would like to do that.’”
Before they knew it the Parent-Teacher Organization had donated hamburgers, water, chips and cookies.
“We played cornhole and the superintendent (Eldon Merrell) cooked the burgers. People brought lawn chairs and we did it in the grass area,” Ellis said “We played music and it was awesome.”
Thursday’s event, which is the day before Homecoming, will actually be in the parking lot and a true tailgate party, Ellis said. It’ll start at 5:30 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m.
A large bonfire will be set around 8 p.m., but the public isn’t invited to that part of the festivities, he said.
“We’re really stoked and we think we’ll do it for basketball season and for baseball season, too,” Ellis said.
Jones started the team dinners because anytime she talked to former Duncan football players they’d recall their team dinners with great fondness.
She was excited at the idea of the tailgate parties, though.
“We had a really big turnout for the first one. You never know what to expect. We didn’t know if we were going to get a huge crowd or a small crowd and we had a really decent-sized crowd,” Jones said. “The community response has been great. We’ve had lots of donations from community members and all of the businesses that we’ve asked. They’re all willing to donate. They’ve donated water, hamburger buns, condiments.”
In fact, monetary donations left over from the first event will be used for Thursday’s, she said.
The periodic events aren’t being held on the day of the big game because the kids wouldn’t be able to enjoy it, Jones said.
The events are about more than good, Ellis and Jones said.
They’re about bringing people together — the kids wearing the pads and the community in general.
“If you build those relationships off of the field it’s going to show on the field. It’s about that comradery and building those friendships,” Jones said.