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ST. MARYS — Buckeye fans young and old packed a tent in the parking lot of the St. Marys Eagles Club on Saturday to enjoy football, food, fellowship — and to fight cancer.
The fourth annual St. Mary Tailgate for Cancer took over the corner of Spring and Spruce streets and greeted visitors with live music, food and the chance to help those fighting cancer. While the event officially got underway on Friday with a performance by McGuffey Lane, Saturday served as the main event.
“We are just hoping to raise a lot of money for cancer research and local cancer charities,” said Nancy Burkhart, one of the organizers of the event. “We’ve been able to raise $140,000 in the last three years. We are hoping to at least match last year’s total.”
Last year, the event netted $68,000 to benefit cancer research. Organizers donated $36,000 to the OSU Arthur James Hospital in Columbus as well as a funds to local cancer charities.
Each year, the event has grown — both in size and money raised. Burkhart said that fact was a testament to the generosity of the local community.
“It has just been so awesome,” Burkhart said. “That’s why we did the Archie Griffin night for the Rider Rooters — we were trying to help pay back the community for all the support they have given us.”
Saturday’s slate kicked off with a 5K in the morning. The event, in its second year, drew a large number of participants.
“I think we had quite a few more than last year,” Burkhart said. “We had a lot more sign up and we had a lot of walk ups.”
The addition of the Friday event also helps draw in crowds.
“It’s going pretty well,” Burkhart said of the Friday show. “We had a pretty good crowd. It should have covered our costs and that was our goal.”
Visitors to the tailgate had the chance to view multiple college football games on flat screen television throughout the venue. A 12-foot jumbo screen also played games — including the Buckeyes versus Indiana Hoosiers game Saturday night.
Live music also dotted the schedule, as Nashville Crush took to the stage at 2 p.m., followed by the OSU Alumni Band and alumni cheerleaders. Almost Empty and Free Rider rounded out the slate of scheduled musical acts. There also was a slew of Buckeye memorabilia to bid on, as well as 50/50 drawings and the main prize — a trip on the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer.
What was not lost in between the fun and fellowship was the fact each person who attended the event was helping fight a disease that has touched millions across the globe.
“It’s very important because if we all work together, we can beat this disease and we don’t have to see our family and friends suffer from this horrible disease,” Burkhart said. “It’s good to get outside support — we are starting to see people from other communities who are starting to come to our event.”
Planning for the tailgate is a 12-month job. Printed on the schedule of events found on every table was, “12:31 a.m. — start planning for next year.”
“We’ll start planning for next year, next week,” Burkhart said, noting there is a core group of approximately 20 people who help put on the event every year.
“We’ll meet a couple of times this year and then go into a bit of a lull, then starting in March, we’ll meet starting monthly. Then the side groups have their own meetings — each event has a committee.”