Fans “pay their respects” to Sanford Stadium on Saturday, April 18, 2020, on the University of Georgia's campus in Athens, Georgia. The annual G-Day football scrimmage was canceled this year due to complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

“Never bark alone,” is the simple, yet resonant slogan of the New York Dawgs alumni association, and it serves as a statement to Georgia fans around the world during these times of separation.  

The outbreak of COVID-19 led to changes that affected everyday life in every aspect imaginable. People worldwide are recommended to practice social distancing, leaving everyone’s daily operations to be conducted from the comfort of their homes. 

For Georgia football fans, the timing of the pandemic isn’t ideal, since the period from mid-January to late-September is already a dry spell for college football. The cancellation of Georgia football’s spring game was just another sporting event that was lost. 

However, on April 13, Georgia football announced that the celebration would take place virtually, and the unwavering spirit of Georgia fans did not falter. 

The importance of coming together was highlighted by the effort from Bulldog fans inviting others to join the celebration with them. Although tens of thousands of Bulldog fans weren’t able to gather at Sanford Stadium for G-Day, small communities like the Chicago Dawgs were still able to recreate beloved traditions.

“I was surprised by the turnout,” said Amanda Werth, who graduated from UGA in 2018. “I was not expecting as many people to join, but we ended up having about 12 people. It was not the same as celebrating in person, but it was nice to celebrate from the comfort of our homes.”

Though the experience of tailgating through a computer screen had its drawbacks, the virtual get-together created new opportunities as well. Through the online event, different people from around the country were able to join in on the call. 

“Because it was virtual, it wasn’t just Chicago Dawgs that were all together tailgating,” said Shelley McDaniel, a 2018 UGA graduate and Chicago Dawgs board member. “We actually had the president from the Atlanta [alumni] Chapter join us in our tailgate, it eliminated any sort of boundaries or limitations.”

The importance of bringing people together was a priority for the alumni associations, while also serving as a call to fellow Bulldogs around the nation to help give back during a time of need. 

“Virtual G-Day was the kick-off for the alumni association’s campaign to call people to serve, donate or give back, and highlight some of the good that Bulldogs are doing across the US,” McDaniel said.

The New York Dawgs held their own virtual tailgate as well. They managed to use it as a fundraising opportunity for American Whiskey, a local New York Dawgs meeting place and Georgia football watching location.

Founded in 2014, American Whiskey is described as a “slice of Athens” by Bulldogs in New York, designed solely for Georgia fans to be able to come together to watch the Bulldogs play. However, along with the endless amount of other businesses, the esteemed Georgia bar closed its doors in March due to the coronavirus.

Like many Georgia fans, Brian Carter, a Georgia alumnus from the class of 1999 and a long-time member of the New York Dawgs, was looking forward to attending this year’s G-Day. With the announcement that it would be celebrated virtually, Carter saw it as an opportunity to both bring people together and help raise money for the local business.

“For us, the period without football is such a bummer, we are so starved for football,” Carter said. “We look forward to G-Day because sometimes it can even be better than the real games in the regular season. I think [virtual G-Day] speaks to recruits, I think it shows that our fans aren’t fair weather, that we’re here no matter what, and I think it makes a difference.”

Through the sale of virtual raffle tickets and squares, organizer Brian Carter was able to raise over $800 during the New York Dawgs virtual tailgate, with all proceeds going directly to the staff of American Whiskey.

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