In search of J.D. bottles next to barbecue grills, Powell and a team of judges are hitting every NFL city this football season to look for Jack Daniel's Great American Tailgate. They come to Cleveland this weekend for the Browns' matchup against the Washington Redskins.
Before the game, they'll scour the Muni lot to rank each tailgate party on its menu, enthusiasm, and creativity. If the Browns make it to the Super Bowl in February, the winning tailgaters score tickets to the big game in Jacksonville. "We saw a group of guys with this huge bus last year, and they decked it out with Cleveland Browns stuff," recalls the 25-year-old Powell, whose great-grandfather inherited his uncle's whiskey factory from the lifelong bachelor. "Some get real elaborate with their displays. I saw some guys doing lobster. Some people bring candelabra. One group even set up a glass chandelier in the center of their area."
Powell is also astounded at the results of a national survey conducted this summer by Jack Daniel's parent company: 80 percent of male fans would rather tailgate with George Bush than John Kerry, 24 percent prefer burgers over bratwurst, hot dogs, chicken, and steak, and 30 percent don't even have tickets to the game. "We've seen people bring in TVs," says Powell. "And they're cooking and laughing and having fun and don't even venture into the stadium."
Not Cleveland. To Powell's surprise, the Dawg Pound has as much of a bark as its bite. "[Browns] tailgaters are just excited, friendly, hospitable," she says. "It's a great, great tailgating city. It's the bar of what I judge everything else against."