One fall weekend each year, downtown Jacksonville is flooded with a sea of red, black, orange and blue for the annual Florida-Georgia Football Classic. Since 1933, Jacksonville has been the host city for the heated rivalry except in 1994 and ‘95 when the game was played on a home-and-home basis while what is now EverBank Field was renovated for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game, and the events around it, draw about 100,000 people to Jacksonville for what most consider the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party” although City officials have been trying for several years to downplay that nickname – without much luck.
This year, Florida and Georgia face off on Saturday, Nov. 2 . It is a weekend rich in tradition and events. Below you’ll find out more about one of college football’s most celebrated rivalries!
How long has the rivalry existed? Well, it depends who you ask! Georgia fans will tell you the first time they whooped UF was in 1904, but Florida fans will argue that UF didn’t even have a football team until 1915, making the supposed Georgia win in 1904 void.
Although the teams may not agree upon where and when the first game was held, there is no argument that Jacksonville has been the host city for the most notable moments in the rivalry’s history. Some highlights include:
- “The Biggest Bulldog Win” – In 1942, Georgia beat Florida 75-0, the biggest margin of victory this rivalry has ever seen.
- “Spurrier Stopped” – A week after University of Florida senior quarterback Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy in 1966, Georgia dominated the then undefeated Florida Gators 27-10. Perhaps this upset is what inspired Spurrier to come back and coach the Gators, and lead them to an 11-1 record against Georgia.
- “Gator Goal Post” – After Florida beat Georgia 27-0 in 1984, fans were so excited they rushed the field and tore down the goalposts.
- “The Gator Stomp” – According to the St. Petersburg Times, in 2007 Georgia head coach Mark Richt told his team to excessively celebrate after their first touchdown of the game, a move that resulted a majority of the team rushing the field during the first quarter. Although they received two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for this move, Georgia went on to win the game 42-30.
- “Twice the Timeout” – In response to UGA’s unsportsmanlike performance the year before, in 2008 Florida head coach Urban Meyer – with Florida leading 49-10 – used his last two timeouts late in the game to prolong Georgia’s agony.
While some Georgia fans may not agree with hosting the event in the city of Jacksonville, City officials hope the rivalry continues its tradition at EverBank Field.
“The Florida-Georgia Football Classic is an iconic event for the city of Jacksonville,” said Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership. “The city has played host to this premier game since 1933 and continues to draw hundreds of thousands of fans to downtown Jacksonville and EverBank Field each year. This event brings an estimated $80 million in economic impact to our area and strong national recognition.”
According to the statistics gathered by Visit Jacksonville, the city of Jacksonville earns a whopping $20.7 million off of visitors staying in commercial lodging for the weekend. Nearly 11,000 parties stay in commercial lodgings for the event, averaging two nights per party. The city of Jacksonville also profits to the tune of $11.7 million off of direct visitor expenditures. In 2012, the event itself only cost the city an estimated 440,000.
THE WORLD’S LARGEST OUTDOOR COCKTAIL PARTY:
Even though the city of Jacksonville may now refer to the event as the Florida vs. Georgia Football Classic, to many this rivalry weekend will always be known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Florida-Times-Union sports writer Bill Kastelz referenced the event as “the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” in the late 1950s. Kastelz got his inspiration for the term after watching a visibly drunk college student offer an on-duty police officer his cocktail. The phrase stuck, and for years both the city and the fans referred to the event as such.
Anyone who has ever been to the tailgate would agree that Kastelz hit the nail on the head, much to the dismay of city and school officials. As growing incidents of drunken debauchery ensued over the years, the city and school officials decided it would be best to abandon the nickname, and they asked all major television networks to do the same.
Despite these efforts, Kastelz’s 1950’s description of the event hasn’t gone away, and if you ask fans, it won’t any time soon. Whether you’re for Florida or for Georgia, everyone gets excited for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on game day.
In the early years of the Florida-Georgia game, it was more of a shutout than a rivalry. During the first seven games, Florida never even scored a point! Georgia continued to dominate the Florida Gators with a record of 24-5-0 until 1952, when Florida finally rebuilt their team after WWII.
The longest winning streak for the rivalry is seven games, and both teams have done it only once. Georgia first achieved this record under the coaching of Wally Butts, from 1941-48. Florida evened the winning streak score in 1996, when Spurrier led Florida to their seventh victory in a row since 1990.
Winning the rivalry only meant bragging rights until the next year’s game until 2009 when an anonymous donation offered the winning team a new reward – The Okefenokee Oar – which now serves as the official trophy and newest tradition to the rivalry. According to an article in Georgia’s student newspaper, the Red & Black, the oar itself is carved out of wood from a 1,000-year-old cypress tree that straddles both the Florida and Georgia border. This area of the Okefenokee Swamp was once an interstate boundary dispute.
According to Georgia, they lead the overall series 49-40-2, while the Gators claim it’s 48-40-2. Either way, Georgia leads this football rivalry.
RV City – RV City is exactly what it sounds like, a city-sized lot full of RVs! From Wednesday, Oct. 28 – Sunday, Nov. 3, this parking lot breathes Florida- Georgia football. No matter what side you’re on, come out and camp out, or just stop by, to enjoy these spirited events. RV City includes:
- “Show Your True Colors” Campground Decorating Contest
- Friday night karaoke
- Thursday night live entertainment
The Touchdown Showdown – Starting at 10 a.m. on game day, meet outside of the south end zone of EverBank Field for the biggest tailgating and game watching experience of the day!
Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – Friday, Nov. 1. Come out to the West Club at EverBank Field at 11:30 a.m. to take part in one of the rivalry’s longest standing traditions. Watch as players from both Florida and Georgia get inducted into the rivalry’s Hall of Fame. General admission is free, and reserved seats can also be purchased.
Friday Happy Hour Concert – Enjoy a concert at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, from 1 – 7 p.m.
The Landing – The Landing will host an array of events throughout the week for the game.
Written by: Karlyn McKell / Contributor