LSU fans take a certain amount of pride in their culinary expertise and if you've ever wandered around the campus on gameday you'd hesitate to begrudge them. The tailgating offerings in Baton Rouge on Saturdays in the fall simply beggar any other in all of college football. And the fact of the matter is their stadium is better than yours when it comes to food.
On May 14, 1940, LSU stadium was the site of what is easily the largest barbecue ever held on the grounds of a football venue in the US. The occasion was the inauguration of Sam Houston Jones as the governor of the state. His his election marked the end of 12 years of rule by the political machine created by then deceased Huey P. Long and the foes of the Kingfish were in a mood to celebrate.
More than 125,000 people were on hand for the event held in the stadium that Long famously championed. Two massive expansions under the former governor's watch had brought the seating capacity to more than 40,000. The raw numbers on the 1940 inaugural feast were also impressively huge:
- 1,000 beef cattle
- 3,000 pounds of barbecue sauce
- 130,000 buns
- 5,000 gallons of lemonade
Several of the cows were barbecued on the spot but the vast majority were prepared off-site by caterers then brought to the stadium in special railroad cars.
Jones had campaigned as a reformist candidate against the Huey Long's brother, Earl, who had taken over the office after the resignation of Richard Leche the year prior following a host of corruption charges. A Lake Charles lawyer, Jones railed against the excesses of the Long regime. He pledged to forgo an inauguration ball and, instead, hold a massive barbecue which would be open to everyone.
It was a symbolic gesture against the cronyism that was a hallmark of the Long regime. The fact that the LSU president, James Monroe Smith, was under indictment for the "Hayride Scandals" of the year prior further underscored the political importance of the event.
The LSU stadium inauguration event wasn't exactly without precedent. Barbecues had long been a staple of political campaigns in the south. And the bar for victory barbecues was set in 1923 in Oklahoma City when John C. "Jack" Walton held a two-day event to celebrate his gubernatorial victory. The list of donated foodstuffs included 103 turkeys, 1,363 rabbits, 26 squirrels, 134 opossums, 113 geese, 15 deer, two buffalo and two reindeer. More than 200,000 people attended the gala event at the state fairgrounds.
Moss, Robert F. Barbecue: A History of an American Institution. Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 2010. Print.
Associated Press, "Louisiana Plans Monster Barbecue for New Governor." The Evening Independent; St. Petersburg, FL; April 30, 1940; page 4. Print.
Associated Press, "All Louisiana is Invited to Feast for New Governor." The Portsmouth Times; Portsmouth, OH; May 12, 1940; page 13. Print.
Associated Press, "Governor Sam Jones to be Host at Huge Barbecue Celebration of Demise of Huey Long Machine." The Palm Beach Post ; Palm Beach, FL; May 13, 1940; page 5. Print.