non-Instagram photos courtesy of Jack Plunkett for ATX Television Festival
The Friday Night Lights tailgate has been a favorite annual tradition of the ATX Television Festival, and ten years after the show premiered, the festival held one last pep rally to celebrate those beloved Dillon Panthers. The event, which has always been open to the public, relocated for its final year to Panther Field, in Del Valle, where much of the series was filmed. Festival attendees were shuttled out in actual school buses, and everyone was given the opportunity to tour the Panther Field House, see the locker room that was home to many an inspirational Coach Taylor speech and slap the iconic ‘P’ on the Panther wall for good luck on the way out.
Panther field hasn’t been in use since the series ended, and the bleachers are now overgrown with trees and brush. But that’s no problem for tailgaters, who bring their own chairs and blankets. While waiting for the sun to set, the crowd was treated to live music, including a set by Crucifictorious, the Christian metal band that appeared on the show, helmed by cast member Jesse Plemons. Annual tailgate favorite Louanne Stephens got up on stage, and gave the band an assist on tambourine.
Just before dark, the cast was escorted to the stage by the Pflugerville Panthers football team. In attendance was: Brad Leland, Jesse Plemons, Derek Phillips, Adrianne Palicki, Louanne Stephens, Stacey Oristano, Scott Porter, Gaius Charles, Matt Lauria, Dora Madison, Kevin Rankin, Grey Damon, Katherine Willis, Jeff Rosick, surprise guest Connie Britton (arriving with a signature “Hi, y’all!”) and many other residents of Dillon. The cast shared some stories about their time making the show, including the fact that the actors used to sneak onto the field to play when they weren’t filming, but were banned from doing it after one of them was injured. When asked which character most of them would have had a crush on had they attended Dillon High, the response was overwhelmingly in Tami Taylor’s favor. The cast also admitted to which items they stole from the set. Adrianne stole Tyra’s boots and bras. Connie took the Reserved Parking for Tami Taylor sign. She claims it’s still in her driveway.
After sharing fond memories, and emotional gratitude for their time spent together again, it was time for the lights to go down, and to watch one last episode of Friday Night Lights - the Season 4 episode "The Son" - under the stars.