Butch Jones, University of Tennessee football coach, speaks to reporters during a Big Orange Caravan event at The Barn at Sycamore Farms in Arrington, Tenn., Monday, July 10, 2017.
Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean
The annual Big Orange Caravan was back in Middle Tennessee on Monday night, offering Vols fans a chance to hear firsthand from the people running their beloved program.
The Nashville stop, at The Barn at Sycamore Farms in nearby Arrington, featured the two most prominent names in Vols sports, new athletic director John Currie and football coach Butch Jones.
Currie arrived in the late afternoon. Inside the venue’s dimly lit dining area, he couldn’t go two minutes without being stopped to sign an autograph, shake a hand or take a picture with young Vols fans. It was exactly what he envisioned it would be like when he took over the position in February.
“The event is intended to be accessible and for people to be able to connect, and for us to say thank you,” Currie said. “We got a lot of people around here who get in that car and drive two and a half hours, and it’s OK for us to get in that car and drive two and a half hours over here.”
Monday’s event was sold out, Currie said. Games of corn hole were laid out on the back patio. Tennessee mugs, hats, footballs, T-shirts and more were available for bidding at the event’s auction. Tables were organized and each guest was served food, given a name tag and gathered inside to mingle before Jones, the featured speaker of the night, arrived.
Jones entered the twisted road leading up to the barn with a police escort, fresh off a plane from SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. When it came time for him to speak, he got the rock star treatment, walking on stage to roaring applause and a standing ovation.
“Everything is about our fan base,” Jones said. “We have the best fan base in America, so anytime you can get out and mingle with them and talk Tennessee football, it’s very special. It’s nights like this I look forward to.”
Jeff Gammon came to Monday’s event from Murfreesboro with his wife and children. A Georgia fan by nature, Gammon has adopted the Vols as his second team in recent years.
It was his first time attending a Big Orange Caravan event, and he appreciated the opportunity to meet and hear from the people in charge.
“This is a cool thing they do,” Gammon said of the location. “It’s something Middle Tennessee can be proud of, to have coach Butch Jones and others come in here. Any time people of public influence can be out in public, it’s always a good, positive thing.”