A tradition steeped in Madness



By Lindsay Travis

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Tuesday’s weather was overcast with the humidity at 90 percent. Winds came from the northwest at 10 mph to sink the already chilly temperature.

However, that is not stopping 69-year-old UK fan Charles Wafford from attending his 21st Big Blue Madness.

“I came down with cancer about six months ago, and somebody asked me if I was going to camp out and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to camp out to the best of my ability,’ ” Wafford said.

Also camping out is the “Big Blue Posse,” donned with custom T-shirts and hoping to set up their tents together in one of the prime locations.

Fans didn’t always have to camp out, though. According to Mike Allen, from Fairdale: “In ’92, when you walked up to Memorial Coliseum in the back, you could just walk up and get in line, and you were lucky to get in.”

Even though it’s not the same, fans still enjoy camping out because they get to meet people from different parts of the state and country.

Bill Guy, from Nicholasville, recalls an “amazing” experience he had one year.

“This young couple flew in from Denver, Colo., into Louisville. They’ve never lived in the state of Kentucky. They lived in Denver their whole lives,” he said. “They were just Kentucky fans and wanted to fly in one time and see a Kentucky game.

That’s just the UK fan base. They’re everywhere.”

Ken Boone, from Hodgenville, said his favorite part of Big Blue Madness is “the excitement leading up to it. You know it’s just a constant buildup of excitement and gets us ready for the season. When you’re blue through and through you just can’t wait for it.”

Jason Stanford, from Breckinridge County, said he enjoys “taking the kids and having all the glitz and glam going on with the lasers and introducing the players.”

But what does Big Blue Madness mean? Why would people camp out for a week just for tickets?

Recent UK dietetics graduate Chelsea Bolton gave her take on the meaning of Big Blue Madness.

“It means everything. It’s life. It’s the opening of the new season and it’s just the way to bring the new players in, to meet them personally and not have to just see them on the basketball court,” she said. “You actually kind of get to know them by getting their autographs and you get to have fun out here with all your biggest Wildcat families. That’s what we consider it — one big family.”

No matter the conditions that they camp out in, fans love Big Blue Madness.

Some have loved it for 20 years, and some for just a few, but they still migrate back each year to bring in the new season.

“These people are die-hard fans,” said Charles Wafford, just before he left to go for his daily treatment.