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Tennessee Football Looks to Score Big on Boomsday Weekend

The bang that Tennessee’s football season starts with will be a little louder this year.

As has often occurred in the last few decades, the Vols’ season-opener will be on the same weekend as Boomsday in Knoxville. Tennessee hosts Austin Peay on Saturday night, Aug. 31, at 6 p.m. at Neyland Stadium. The next night the riverfront rocks again as the biggest Labor Day weekend fireworks show in the nation booms away for the 26th year.

It all makes for one wild time in East Tennessee, made even wilder this year with new, energetic head coach Butch Jones directing his first game at UT. Not even the most dedicated Vols’ fans are expecting a Southeastern Conference championship this year, but Jones’ fiery attitude and strong recruiting performance since his arrival from a successful stint at the University of Cincinnati have the buzz going again.

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Season openers are awesome anyway here.  The kickoff time will mean an afternoon of tailgating around Neyland, with the smell of Tennessee barbecue flowing from a thousand grills and friends and families socializing all around the campus. Tents will be set up and corn hole games contested amid endless chatter and laughter.

The throng will gather for the Pride of the Southland Band’s grand arrival and for the legendary Vol Walk when the team makes its way to the stadium. Smoky, Rocky Top … as they say, “It’s football time in Tennessee!”

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The Vol Navy will make a weekend of it. Many of the boats arrive on the Tennessee River on Friday night and stay clear through Sunday to take in both the game and Boomsday. There is even a water taxi service, called NavCal, that picks up fans at nearby Gov. Ned McWherter Park next to the South Knoxville Bridge and drops them off in the middle of the action.

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Around 100,000 are expected for the Austin Peay game, the first of seven home games on a schedule that will get a lot tougher quickly. The big battles at Neyland will be against Georgia on Oct. 5, South Carolina on Oct. 19 and Nov. 23 versus Vanderbilt, which thumped UT last year for the first time in a long time. The road is even more challenging with games at Oregon on Sept. 14, Florida on Sept. 21 and Alabama on Oct. 26.

But none of that will spoil the fun of the opener.

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Then the next night a crowd that in the past has numbered as large as 400,000 will begin gathering at 1 p.m. for the largest event this city hosts each year. A day of attractions like a Family Fun Zone and Boomsday Bandz leads up to a fireworks display that’s just about unbelievable.

And, if all that isn’t enough for one weekend in Knoxville, you could actually start Thursday night by taking in a performance by the Band Perry, a Greeneville-based band that has turned into one of country’s top acts, Thursday night at Smokies Park in nearby Kodak.

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(Photos courtesy of the University of Tennessee Athletic Department)

 Tell us about your most memorable UT football moment in the comments. 

Hi! I’m Linda Lange. As a travel writer living in Knoxville, I fully appreciate barbecue, bluegrass and Dollywood. My story...Read on

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