The STRATA FL/GA tailgate is something of a Jacksonville rite of passage.
The “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” existed for decades before STRATA came along, but in 2010 when brothers Jason and Jerry Rodriguez decided to try out running a little tailgate for STRATA, the game was as they say, “changed.”
Jason and Jerry, the two brothers who founded STRATA, grew up in Jacksonville and still call it their hometown, as well as home base.
While their apparel company was already established in the area, it wasn’t until 2010 that they first got the idea to even host a tailgate at the game. Little did they know that in a few years, the tailgate would morph into an event that draws thousands of people, hosts several food and beer trucks, as well as major national acts.
To catch us up on everything they’re doing with the FL/GA tailgate this year, Void recently interviewed the two about how the tailgate first began, and what people can expect this year.
Tell me a little about how the tailgate first began. Where did the idea come from? Why do it when there is so much competition?
Jerry: It started by a friend of mine mentioning we should get two tailgating spots at Tailgate bar and grill. We purchased the two spots and invited friends. The day of, we showed up with our van, two kegs, a tent and my buddy brought his PA system, and we played music from one of those white iPods. Next thing we know, about 200 to 300 people showed up, and we knew we had something.
The next couple of years we started to buy more and more tailgate spots until they said the party was too big and would rather sell the space as parking. That’s when we teamed up with Tailgaters and are now at our current spot.
There’s a lot of competition out there, but we look at it more as an experience bigger than the actual game. When it first started, it was just a tailgate for the game. Now, we look at it as a festival that goes on during the game.
What was the inspiration behind the tailgate and how did it change over the years?
Jason: The tailgate originally started super low key. Our friends, a couple kegs, some burgers, a small tv on a table that someone ended up accidentally falling on and breaking, haha.
To be honest, this came from how my brother and I do things. We genuinely love to put on great events for everyone to enjoy. If you have experienced how we get down, then you know. Each year, we kept adding on new things to enhance the experience. Major shouts to the boys at Red Bull for being with us these last few years.
Jerry: The original inspiration was just a great time for us and our friends. Over the years, we’ve included others [like] Spy Optics, Red Bull, Bubba Burger, Insta Ramp, and I would say this last year, it became a lot more serious for us to try and make it a destination.
I know there were some years that you guys struggled to ensure people weren’t sneaking in or abusing it, so how did it evolve over time?
Jason: 2012 was one to remember. Our boys at Bangarang getting everyone rowdy on Jay Dodson’s Jag bus. I think someone broke the door on the back, sorry Jay! The tailgates around us just stared at us like we were crazy going 100 percent at 10 a.m. haha.
I would say 2013 is when things really got serious. That was the most frightening year for us. The cost to put on was insane. I remember working through the night with my brother making sure all our tents and structures were not blown away from the storm. We weren’t even halfway to breaking even the morning of. It was horrifying, but my brother and I are always positive. The morning of, our attitude was, “let’s go — there is no turning back now.” It was a success. 1,200 friends partying in the same space, burgers, beers and good times. Towards the end, it was nuts. We cut the door at capacity and people were climbing the fences to get in. We hired JSO on the spot to help us control it. You guys are animals, we love it! In the end it was crazy fun.
Was there ever a time when you thought it was too much and debated not doing it? What keeps you going?
Jason: Honestly, not really. We will always do FL/GA, and it will always continue to improve. It’s so rewarding to us for everyone to have a great time, let loose and make some new memories with their friends.
But I will say last year was one of the hardest years for us. We went big and were stressed on it for sure. We decided to partner with the guys at Social Academy, a promotions company to help sell tickets since my brother and I have such crazy schedules. Everything was in place. Day of we had 3,000 people show up. We didn’t expect that many people. Overall, we had both great feedback and criticism that we could take back to the drawing board for 2016.
Our brand identity and what we stand for is what keeps us going. We are a fashion-forward brand inspired by music culture. If you look at our style, it’s what makes this tailgate so different from the normal. We market in a completely different way. But overall it’s the people. It’s for them. We aren’t scared to take these risks to put in the hours to make this happen for them. I don’t think my brother and I have caught good sleep in the last three months haha.
Jerry: I don’t think that thought has crossed our mind. It’s a great event and last year was the first time we went big instead of keeping it confined and we def learned some things to do and not to do.
I think just with any big event in the beginning stages there are things to take back to the drawing board, and that’s what we did. We took the things that worked and the things that didn’t work and reorganized it.
What are some improvements people can expect to see this year? What’s new?
Jason: For starters, Shwayze will be joining the party this year. We have stage and sound built out for him and the DJs. North Florida Sales will be providing us with 25-ft beer trucks that have 24 C02 taps filled with 80 kegs of Shock Top, Amber Bock and Landshark. We are also partnering with Captain Morgan. Five of the top food trucks will be set up. Multiple Red Bull bars and infrastructure will be set up to make sure everything is accessible. For those taking our buses, we will have pre-check-in scans so that once they arrive onsite, they can enter immediately and not wait in line. We also tripled the personnel working this year. We would rather be overstaffed instead of not enough. We are covering every single angle, so we are ready to go this year.
Jerry: Jason mentioned everything but I wanted to reiterate Shwayze being on board as the main artist. We wanted to bring great entertainment to the mix this year so that everyone can enjoy that aspect of the event even more.
In the past, we also handled the beer and food. This year, North Florida Sales is providing a great beer selection and five food trucks will give our guests plenty of food selection.
Tell us a little about how you decided to get a big musical act like Shwayze. Where did that idea come from?
We knew we needed to start adding artists to the mix. We have to give thanks to the guys at Social Academy. They mentioned his name and we knew right away he was the one for this year. His last album is titled “King of Summer,” so all the marketing content we are pushing is light color palettes for summer vibes — although we are going into winter. We’re doing things differently, and it’s Florida anyway. He’s from the West Coast, so we want to show him how we do things in North Florida. We have some pretty witty content that we are releasing. Follow @strataflga to see for yourself.
Since it seems like the tailgate is only going to improve and grow, what are the plans for the future?
Jason: Definitely. We’ll continue to keep growing. There is a quote we love — “To win without risk is to triumph without glory.” With that being said, it’s only going to keep growing and become more organized. But it will always have the foundation of our brand identity and style. Overall, the major plans for the future will be curating really strong lineups in our realm of genres to push our music culture at FL/GA.
Jerry: Since we are moving our offices downtown, we want to continue to grow this event into THE event you must visit during FL/GA. We want to accomplish that by continuing to bring in big musical acts that put our city on the map.
Are there any plans for any new events that we should know about? If so can you give us any insight?
Jason: That’s a great question. My brother and I are always thinking what our next move is. We will be in our new space in downtown Jacksonville at the end of December. With this change and everything we have been learning over the years, we are planning a new music festival very close to the new HQ titled “STRATA SOUNDS.” We are building some really great relationships with artists in Los Angeles, and it’s a movement that you will want to be a part of. I can’t go too much more in detail about it is, but what I can say is that we are about to start something Jacksonville has never seen. We are going to take our time to plan this right, but we promise the wait will be worth it. Until then, we’ll see you guys at this year’s tailgate.
This year’s tailgate details:
Saturday October 29 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
$25 GA | $35 GA + Party Bus ticket
Complementary beer from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tailgaters lot 2010 East Beaver St Jacksonville, FL 32202
Contact info – 904.566.4291 or email@example.com