Some schools have weird statues to rub or fight songs to sing, but the University of Kentucky has a legendary pre-battle ritual. It’s a scrimmage called Big Blue Madness.
A pack of University of Kentucky Wildcats settled near the richest watering hole in Lexington Wednesday morning: Memorial Coliseum. 5 a.m. was the time campers were permitted to snag a place in line to claim the best seats in Rupp Arena for the first men and women’s basketball open practice this season.
With nothing but a portable street light, campers lined up on Avenue of Champions and at the sound of their freedom, they sprinted across the street to the Memorial Coliseum lawn with half-set up tents. They cannot have more than four people to a tent, so people launched their bodies on the patches of grass closest to the ticket office to secure a good place in line.
Today, rows of tents are nestled together along Avenue of Champions and zig-zagging up Rose Street as campers prepare for the big ticket hunt to come.
Here’s the catch: Thanks to modern technology, UK fans do not have to do this anymore. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com. So, why do people still do this?
Two Big Blue Madness safety patrollers Joan Holt and Kathy Hoff said it is all about the community that the Big Blue Nation offers. It’s not just about basketball, it’s about the feeling fans get when they step in the stadium and nothing but pride fills their chests. When the blue fireworks go off and everyone in Kentucky is screaming, “Go Big Blue!” it’s like their home is grasping their hand to say, “You belong here.”
Hoff works the campout every year, eight years running, and cannot recall a bad memory. She spoke of the kindness and Southern grace in each of the campers. Any time there was a logistical error for her to address, campers followed her word without an argument and thanked her for keeping their treasured tradition alive.
Holt came out to help for the second year and she described the campout as a “little village.” There were people of all ages, but almost all of them was from Kentucky. The women were in awe of a man of nearly 70 who camped out every year since the first Big Blue Madness in 2009. They also respected two young high school fans from Mason County who made it out this year on their own for the first time.
People of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds camped out for the week regardless of rain and possible flooding. This is the true definition of BBN. Dick Vitale announces at each Kentucky game that no matter the potential of the team that year, no game will be without a crashing sea of blue made up of the Big Blue Nation.
While the tents were full of campers sleeping peacefully in blue and white pajamas all week, fans now have bellies full of butterflies.
The Kentucky herd will be released into the wild tonight at 10 p.m. to form a stampede toward their one and only goal: Big Blue Madness tickets.
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