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Local Falcons fans start season with food, fun and tradition
Chris Durkin of Flowery Branch serves himself a hot dog fresh off the grill Sunday while tailgating before the Atlanta Falcons season opener against the Miami Dolphins at the Georgia Dome. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

ATLANTA — Kick off for Sunday’s Atlanta Falcons season opener may have been at 1 p.m., but many devoted fans were up preparing for the game before that time. Way before that time.

For season ticket holders Jerry and Rebecca Edmondson, who recently moved to Buford from Gainesville, Falcon home game days start the same way rain or shine — tailgating.

"I can remember standing in the rain with my nephew under an umbrella and trying to grill a hot dog — tailgating and

football games go hand in hand," said Rebecca Edmondson.

"We usually arrive three or three and a half hours before the game, but that may be too late because the parking lots are starting to fill up quick."

The Edmondsons have been tailgating for the past three seasons and although last year was a great one for the Falcons, that hasn’t always been the case.

"The first year it was a little rough, but we knew there was a light at the end of a tunnel, we knew they’d do something different to turn things around," said Rebecca Edmondson.

"Something different" helped lead the Falcons to victory on Sunday with the 19-7 win over the Miami Dolphins.

"The first game where (Falcons’ 2008 rookie quarterback) Matt Ryan played was awesome," said Rebecca Edmondson. "And he’s a great player and a great role model for the kids."

After coming to a few games last year with the Edmondsons, Flowery Branch couple Chris and Penny Durkin decided to join in the fun on a more permanent basis.

"We had such a good time out here, that we decided to get our own season tickets," said Chris Durkin.

In the parking lots surrounding the Georgia Dome, you can see everything from stadium-style seating to flat-screen TVs powered by generators.

"Some people don’t go inside, they just sit out here and watch the game," said Chris Durkin.

The name of the game for the Edmondson-Durkin group is keeping things uncomplicated. They have a few tried and true staples that are at every pregame gathering.

"You’ve gotta have good food," said Penny Durkin. "And chairs. Even if you don’t have a tent, you’ve gotta have chairs."

"And friends," added Rebecca Edmondson. "(Jerry and I) started out with just the two of us, and that’s fun, but it’s a blast with friends."

Another staple for Jerry Edmondson is his Coleman propane stove.

"I grew up watching my grandpa cook on one of these," he said. "I said ‘Hey, if it works for him, it works for me too.’"

A successful day of tailgating requires a bit more preparation than jumping in the car, the group says.

"You have to be organized," said Jerry Edmondson. "We plan our menu ahead of time and make sure all of our supplies are packed."

The Edmondsons and Durkins are so organized that they got their meal prepared and served in less than 10 minutes. Sunday’s menu consisted of hot dogs, baked beans and coleslaw.

"We like to keep it simple," said Penny Durkin.

In the three years that they’ve been tailgating, Jerry Edmondson says that he has seen his share of fumbles and Hail Mary plays.

"We saw one guy almost set his truck on fire by putting his grill on the bed of his truck," he said. "Another time a group of college guys pulled up beside us with just a little Hibachi grill and some steaks — that was it. They were happy though."

Over the years, he says that they have met all sorts of Falcons fans.

"Interestingly enough, we met a woman from New Orleans (home of the Saints) who was a Falcons fan. She had season tickets," said Jerry Edmondson. "I’ve been following the Falcons since I was in high school in the late ’70s. Tailgating just adds a vibe and energy to the game day that we love."