HARTSELLE — The e-mail comes every Monday before Hartselle’s home football games.
About 50 families expect it, and almost that many more expect to hear about its contents.
Oh no, this is not some big government secret or rumor about a neighbor.
What they want to read involves the choices for the tailgating menu.
This season, some of the choices have been busted Bearcat butt when the Tigers played Cullman and grilled Eaglette wings when the team hosted Athens.
Tailgating at Hartselle football games started a little more than a decade ago, when brothers Johnny and Willie Jones decided they wanted to come to the stadium two hours before kickoff for what they called “socialization.”
“This is Hartselle football and when it gets in your blood, you kind of go crazy,” Johnny Jones explained.
His four sons played for the Tigers. Two of them are on scholarship at the Air Force Academy. Willie Jones has all daughters, but he is an avid Hartselle football fan and the anointed cook in the family.
“He always does the cooking, so if it’s bad people can blame him,” Johnny joked.
“It’s never bad,” Jeffrey Mullins responded.
The Jones brothers have prepared everything from deer burgers to fried fish, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.
“We have what we bring, but we tell people if they want something on the grill to bring it,” Johnny Jones said.
Hartselle’s parties have grown so big that an area in the parking lot west of the stadium is exclusively reserved for tailgating.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Superintendent William Michael Reed said.
Reed has been superintendent in another Alabama school system and at one in Mississippi.
“The first time I saw this, I said, ‘Wow,’ ” he recalled. “This is just another way this community gets behind its school.”
Although the Jones brothers are credited with its start, tailgating has grown beyond their wildest dream.
Two years ago, a crew led by Jim Kimbrell and Tommy Blankenship joined the pre-game festivities.
Because of communications issues, Kimbrell built an e-mail database.
“I send out the menu and we vote on what we’re going to have,” he said.
Before Friday’s 24-14 win over rival Russellville in the quarterfinals, the crew had chicken stew, Mexican cornbread and just about any kind of dessert your taste buds desired.
“He’s our fearless leader,” school board Chairwoman Jennifer Sittason said, referring to Kimbrell.
“I would say that,” Kimbrell responded. “I got this by default, but we all contribute and that’s what makes it special.”
Wendy Swann has attended every tailgating event this season.
“We can’t mess up our mojo,” she explained.
Hartselle is 12-1 and the Class 5A, No.1 ranked team.
The Tigers are hosting Briarwood Christian at J.P. Cain Stadium on Friday night. It will be the team’s first appearance in the semifinals since 2002.
With a win, Hartselle will go to the 5A championship game at Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn.
Of course, Auburn, like most Division I playing football programs, is famous for tailgating.
“You can bet we will tailgate down there,” Johnny Jones said. “It’s going to be a big tailgate party because my family is from Troy and they will join the party. They love Hartselle as much as I do.”