In early November, Andover High School students were informed that Andover Youth Services was not holding another “tailgate” this year. The tailgate held last year had been a huge success; everyone had a fun time and an exorbitant amount of school spirit was created through the support of the attendees. However, this year the anticipation for a fun and exciting night was cancelled with no explanation or warning. In the morning of the day before the tailgate was scheduled to take place, there was an announcement stating that it had been cancelled. Whispers and gasps of shock fluttered throughout the classes; however, to this day there has been no clear explanation of what has happened.

After some investigation, it is time to clear the air. First, let’s start with who was involved with the tailgate. It was being planned and organized by the Andover Youth Services Council. Additional involvement came from Mr. Bill Fahey and Glen from Youth Services, Assistant Superintendent of Andover Public Schools, former AHS Principal Dr. Lord, AHS Athletic Director, and Mr. Mansfield from the Andover Fire Department.

There are two different sides to the events surrounding the tailgate. First, we have the Andover Youth Council and Services who were the hosts of the tailgate. On the other end, there was the school administrators along with the Andover Fire Department, who were trying to make sure that the tailgate adhered to all the criteria in place of an agreement which was finalized two years earlier.

Here is the AYC’s story. They were very excited and willing to organize a community event for the second year. The Youth Council had started what they had hoped would be a great annual event that supported the football team, band, and cheerleaders. They also hoped to give everyone a chance to enjoy the spirit of community at the football team’s last regular season home game. Last year’s tailgate went off without a hitch and was extremely successful. As the football season approached, the Youth Council and members of the football team, including Coach Perry, inquired about the 2nd Annual Tailgate. Mr. Mansfield and the parties involved outside the Youth Council and Youth Services applied “specific criteria” to a completely different event than the referenced “agreement that was struck 2 years prior”. The Youth Services staff, like they had done the previous year, met all the necessary requirements to organize this event. Then, early in the morning on the Thursday prior to the tailgate, students from the AYC communicated with the Youth Services staff that Dr. Lord was scheduled to hold a meeting with certain town employees to determine the fate of the tailgate. AYS staff encouraged the students to have a presence at the meeting to represent and advocate for their peers on the council, and within the school. AYS Director Bill Fahey and Assistant Director Glenn Wilson also planned on attending the meeting, although they were not informed of or invited by the other town employees. The students and the AYS staff arrived at the main office of Andover High School for the meeting and were both greeted by Dr. Lord who asked them to be patient and wait a few minutes while they prepared for the meeting. After about fifteen minutes, both parties felt as though they had “been forgotten” and questioned where the meeting was taking place. The AYS staff searched the school grounds and found the group holding a meeting – without AYS or student representation – at the Lovely Stadium turf. At this meeting, the AYS staff was accused of not following the proper channels set forth in regards to hosting a tailgate. As stated above, they had followed the appropriate procedures for the event and Mr. Mansfield was misinterpreting the prior agreement for the current situation. It is important to note a large part of the confusion around this event relates to what the definition of a “tailgate” is. AYC saw this event as a cookout that had a propane grill in a contained space inside the football stadium fence versus an open flame in a parking lot surround by vehicles. This then led the Youth Council and Youth Services to determine that what the fire department was allowing was not the intended event.  Ultimately, an event was acceptable to occur, but the event in mind by AYC was not allowed due to restrictions. The AYS staff was told that the proper procedures were not followed in the planning of this year’s tailgate, and that the event could not occur as planned. While the event could occur if concessions were made, such changes would make the event a completely different experience.

Now there is the perspective of the Andover Fire Department along with the School Administrators. From their perspective, the fire department did not cancel the event at all; it was cancelled by the staff at Youth Services after a meeting was held at the football field (mentioned above). The Youth Services staff were informed that they would have to meet specific criteria, based on an agreement that was struck two years prior as mentioned before, to hold the event and those criteria were completely explained and understood by all parties. When the meeting ended it seemed as though Youth Services was still going to hold the event but the fire department was surprised to hear the next day that the Youth Services staff, not them, had cancelled the event.

As evident from above, there was some great confusion between both sides of the event. The culprit of the tailgate’s cancellation was in fact miscommunication between both parties. Neither side can take full responsibility of the miscommunication, yet it is clear that in order for an event as such to take place in the future there needs to be communication and teamwork between them.