Fans of the Frankfort High School football games might have noticed Larry Smith and his friends. They’ll be sitting most home game nights in “Larry’s Lounge,” watching the game and cheering the team along.
But, what many may not know is that Smith and his friends have been tailgating at home games for some 15 years, and that the food they bring not only feeds themselves before the game, but the coaches and sometimes cheerleaders as well.
For Smith, it’s about a love of the home team and creating food that fills his friends’ stomachs, as well as his heart with love.
Smith says he started just coming to the games with friends. But after a while, the group decided to bring a grill with them.
“At first we had a grill that looked like a spaceship, and we started going earlier to the game,” he said. “But then, we moved to a gas grill and someone started bringing their EZ Up shelter and tables and chairs. It just kept getting bigger and bigger — there’s one year, we had nine Crock Pots. We had chili, potato soup, bean soup and chili sauce. People brought a lot of stuff.”
Now, Smith estimates there are some 15 people, or more, who show up with him before the games to grill hot dogs, hamburgers and ribeyes, and eat everything from chips to chili. And there’s no telling how many people he feeds after the game. Smith packs up eight chili dogs for one of the assistant coaches after each game, and at least once a year, he feeds the entire team after the game.
“I just love doing it,” Smith said. “I try to get there early to get my spot. A few years ago Coach (Craig) Foley had a sign made for us. It’s orange and blue and says ‘Larry’s Lounge.’ That’s so no one will take our spot.”
Smith is helped by his sons Steve and Rodney, as well as friends like Scott Fry, Danny Bryant and others. They’ll set up tables and chairs, coffee pots, Crock Pots of food, grills and shelters to keep out the rain, or provide shade from the sun. And each game, people clamor for Smith’s special creations.
“I made my own chili sauce, but then, when it started getting cooler, I thought I’d make chili and soup,” he said. “One night I made potato soup — that was my first mistake. The first night I took it, it was gone before the game even started. So, the next game, I took two crockpots. The first was gone by the first quarter. By half time, the other one was gone.”
Smith’s creations have gained some notoriety amongst his friends and family. And the soup has become so popular, that he’s asked to make it for funerals and other get-togethers, he said. What’s left, finds it’s way home with someone, he said.
“If I had any left in the Crock Pot — I don’t care if it’s enough from just two bowls — someone’s finding something to take it home in,” he said.
And, if someone doesn’t take it home with them, Smith takes it himself, using the leftovers to feed friends who camp around him at a campsite by the Kentucky River.
Marietta Smith, his wife, said she thinks the recipes, and his Friday night parties, are okay.
“Well, I think (the potato soup) is okay. He cooks a lot in here in the kitchen. I mean, the potato soup is good, if you don’t have it once a week, but I’m kind of sick of it,” she said. “Cooking for the games is something that makes him happy though, so I think it’s great.”
Smith also enjoys a little playing around. He’ll taunt the referees with a voodoo doll to ward off bad calls, and he’ll celebrate touchdowns with a few fireworks. For the past four years, he’s been shooting off fireworks after touchdowns. One year, Smith says, he set off the fireworks a little early causing the quarterback to miss the snap on a two-point conversion. Since then, he waits until the point is scored. And he’ll keep doing it, he said, until the coach, or someone else, tells him to stop.
Smith, who graduated from Frankfort High School in 1969, said he just does it for the love of sports, the football program and those who come with him. As a student at FHS, he attended the games, but after graduation, he was drafted into the military and served in Vietnam.
After years of serving the community through various sports programs, he’s happy to show his support for his alma mater by tailgating at home football games, and however else he can.
“When we started, we were the only ones out there,” he said of his tailgating. “A couple of years after, there was one over there and another one or two over here. But now, there’s lots of people doing it. There wasn’t anyone there until I started it.”