Football season is here, and like the rest of campus, UNITE has begun celebrating.

The organization, which boasts over 1,000 members, hosted its first tailgate of the year Thursday afternoon, and approximately 700 students came out for free Krystal and fun and games.

"We host tailgates each Wednesday before home football games at the Tyson Alumni House, to get students excited for gameday," said Kelsey Keny, public relations chair for Student Alumni Associates, UNITE's parent organization. "Tailgates consist of food from our sponsors, games such as cornhole, various minute-to-win-it games, music and more."

At the tailgates, members receive food provided by local sponsors and also have the chance to claim the "Beat" t-shirts that UNITE offers for each game at home. The tailgates also offer an opportunity for students, especially freshmen, to get to know other UT undergraduates who share their school spirit.

"It's just kind of cool to be here and everyone has joined the same thing you have," said Jacob Dixon, freshman in civil engineering. "That kind of starts off (on) a (good) foot with all these other people."

Keny, a junior majoring in journalism and electronic media, echoed this sentiment."For many freshmen, this may be their first experience to go to a UT tailgate, and we want to feel the Volunteer spirit in anticipation for Satuday's game," she said.

Thursday's tailgate saw a large turnout, with students gathered at tables scattered across the lawn of the Tyson House."It's great. Great food," said Austin Stanford, a freshman studying nuclear engineering. "I love it so far."

"Just being here, and just meeting the occasional person who has got the same interests as you, and for the joy of the Tennessee Vols, that's kind of cool," Dixon said.

UNITE is a student organization dedicated to boosting enthusiasm for and preserving the traditions of UT."The goals of UNITE are to connect students and boost Volunteer morale through participation of UT campus traditions," Keny said. "I would personally say that the goal of UNITE is to help make students find a true home here at Rocky Top ... to encourage them to enjoy all that this university has to offer.

"The UNITE crowd is enthusiastic, so it's no surprise that students like Dixon and Stanford are easily drawn into the organization. "We just walked up once, like the meeting. We didn't hear much about it, and we came up, listened to them talk, and we're like '$30 to be a part of this? That's not bad at all,'" Stanford said. "You get to meet new people, tailgate, free food. That's not bad."UNITE became a campus organization in the fall of 2008 and has quickly grown due to its internal push to be a visible outlet for new students to get involved with their campus community.

"UNITE is one of the first things students can jump in on at UT," Keny said. "It's an open membership, so anyone who has a passion for UT and wants to participate in campus traditions can be a part of it."

"Through this, UNITE promotes and upholds the traditions of UT, big or small."

For more information about UNITE and how to get involved, visit their website here.