Fans sprint like Wildcats to camp out for Big Blue Madness tickets

jmadden@herald-leader.comOctober 2, 2013 

Rick Brizendine, draped in blue paraphernalia and surrounded by his children, reigned victorious, capturing the No. 1 spot for the Big Blue Madness campout early Wednesday.

"Having fast sons" has been his family's game plan, said Brizendine, 50. Being first 11 out of 12 years, he said, "We know how to do it, and do it right." Doing it right includes planning early and making it a family affair.

"It's just not about my family. We (friends) keep in touch all year long, so this is like a reunion," said the Western Kentucky native, who has camped out since Monday morning.

A family affair was a recurring theme for the annual Wildcat campout that accompanies the distribution of free tickets to the University of Kentucky's Big Blue Madness, the hugely popular open basketball practice that kicks off the season. Those first in line have a better chance at getting tickets.

At 2 p.m. Friday, UK officials will issue control cards to campers, who must have the cards to get tickets. Each person will receive four tickets. No more than four people are allowed in each tent.

Tickets will be distributed after 7 a.m. Saturday; everyone with control cards must be in line by 7 a.m., according to the athletic department's news release.

UK will make some tickets available online through Ticketmaster. Rupp Arena has a capacity of 23,000.

As of Wednesday afternoon, about 690 tents surrounded Memorial Coliseum, according to UK Athletics. That put the 2013 campout nearly 100 ahead of the previous record, set in 2012, officials said on the UK Athletics website.

Well before sunrise Wednesday, and minutes before dropping the yellow rope restraining the fans lined up for the campout, a spokesperson warned fans to keep things peaceful. Reporters were warned to stay off the grass and seek cover.

At 5 a.m., UK officials allowed fans to rush the lawn of Memorial Coliseum from the curb of Avenue of Champions, which caused a few verbal and shoving altercations.

"I got hit in the back after I tried to place my tent," said Michael Allen, 50, a firefighter from Louisville. "It's just craziness. Once you get your tent up, it's a sigh of relief."

Allen is called "Moose" by the Big Blue Posse, a group of 30 to 90 fans who meet every year for the event.

"It's fun," Allen said. "You get to meet friends. Sometimes meet new friends, and we get to see the basketball team. I just love it."

Big Blue Posse member Todd Courtney, 47, took four days' vacation to attend the campout, which he says is a thrill.

"It's a huge tailgate party," Courtney said. "It gives us a chance to get up close and personal for a team that we would usually get nosebleed seats for."

UK seniors Derek McDonald, 22, and Cevin Hogg, 21, set up shifts with others to patrol their tented area while they went to work.

"We've coordinated with other folks in our tent," said McDonald, who had to be at work at 7:30 a.m. Both plan to go to class for the rest of the week, but the campout is a must.

"Where else are you going to see so many people camp for days and watch a practice?" Hogg asked. "It's a part of the UK college life."

Campers might have noticed several procedure changes, including an earlier start time and a shorter distance from lineup to camping locations. (Officials also noted gains came on Stoll Field, where additional tents were set up.)

DeWayne Peevy, UK deputy athletic director, said the university increased the number of event staff and police officers. The event, including lights and other services, costs about $15,000.

"Moving it to 5 a.m. allowed us to close the streets and move fans closer," Peevy said. "It has become an event within itself. We have to budget and maintain it."

All of it is a prelude to Big Blue Madness on Friday, Oct. 18, in Rupp Arena.


Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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