By SHEENA WETHINGTON
When it was announced that Kentucky was invited to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl game in Jacksonville, my husband and I had ever intention of making our way down there. It was that night that I started looking up hotels in the Jacksonville area. Upon looking, I made my way over to the TaxSlayer Bowl’s website to see about getting tickets. On their website was an advertisement that stated “Win a VIP to the TaxSlayer Bowl.” So I entered the contest. While we had every intention of wanting to make the trip, it was just going to be too expensive for just the two of us.
Fast forward to Dec. 20th. I wake up that morning about 10:30 AM (I’m a teacher that is on Winter Break) and I check my email. I scroll through my email and see a Subject stating “Congratulations, TaxSlayer Bowl Grand Prize Winner.” My heart starts racing. At this point I had even forgot that I entered that contest. “Who me? I never win anything like this!” At this point I think someone is playing a joke on me. No one ever wins these things! So I text me husband and say “OMG, please call me, I think I won a trip to the TaxSlayer Bowl.” I read through the email that was sent to me and everything seems legit. So I call the person who sent me the email to really find out if this was real or a hoax. For privacy purposes, I will state his name as Kyle.
After about two rings on the phone Kyle answers. I inform him of my name and state that I just received this email saying that I am the grand prize winner of the trip to the TaxSlayer Bowl. He responds back and says, “yes, you are in fact our grand prize winner.” My heart dropped. No one ever wins these things. He then went on to explain everything that I had won as a result of this contest.
Round trip airfare
Hotel for 3 nights at the Hyatt Regency
2 tickets to the game in the Bud Light Club
2 tickets to the Coaches Luncheon that featured both teams and the coaches
2 tickets to a private VIP area for the Light Boat show
2 tickets to the Touchdown Tailgate Party before the game
2 VIP tickets to the New Years Bash concert
At some point during our conversation I think I told the guy I loved him. I mean, who really is lucky enough to win something like this. What did I do to deserve such an awesome prize?
Within 24 hours, our plane flight was already booked. I knew then that this was official. We flew out early on Thursday, Dec. 29. Our flight was full of other Kentucky fans making their way to Jacksonville! We ended up making a good friend on our flight that was headed down there to work because she works for the Alumni Club. After our flight landed in Jacksonville we had private transportation pick us up from the airport and take us to the hotel.
That Thursday night we went to River City Brewing Company to the UK watch party for the UK versus Ole Miss basketball game. There had to be over 500 UK fans there to watch the game.
The next morning we woke up and went to the Coaches Luncheon. The food there was awesome. We started with a garden salad and bread. The main course was grilled chicken with a cranberry sauce garnish and grilled vegetables as a side. Dessert was peach cobbler.
Later that Friday night we had tickets to a VIP viewing area for the Light Boat Parade. I really liked this the most because you could not buy tickets to this event. The people that were given tickets to this event were either TaxSlayer Bowl committee workers or volunteers for the event. There was free food and an open bar at this event. There was also an awesome fireworks show after the parade.
It is finally Game Day!! We woke up super early that morning so we could be at the stadium by 9 AM because we had tickets to a tailgate party that featured food and another open bar. Anyone could have bought tickets to this event for $50 a person. We took the River Boat taxi from our hotel to the stadium. The tailgate was full of both UK and Georgia Tech fans.
After the tailgate, we entered the stadium and headed to our seats. We had seats in the end zone. Our section was quite empty compared to the other sections that were on the sidelines. We had tickets in the Bud Light Club. This club allowed us to have private restrooms, concessions, and bar without all the lines. The crowd was very loud. Just too bad that Kentucky could not pull out the first bowl win for Coach Stoops in a 33-18 loss.
It was such a long morning that we went back to the hotel and took a long nap so we could get ready for the concert that night. We had tickets to the VIP area of the New Years Bash concert featuring up and coming county music artists, such as Brett Young and Brothers Osborne. While standing in the VIP area and listening to other artist I was approached by the local radio station to receive meet and greet passes for Brothers Osborne. We were able to meet the two artists of Brothers Osborne, T.J. and John. They are really tall too. Probably around 6’3” and look nothing like brothers. If you have not heard their stuff, check them out. They were awesome.
That night, New Years Eve, there was another fireworks show. We were able to watch these from out hotel room because we had a room that overlooked the river.
On Sunday was our flight out. However, our flight did not leave until 8:00 PM so we were able to explore a little more of the city. While we wanted to experience Top Golf like the team got to experience on Thursday, we decided to go to the Jacksonville Zoo instead since it was a pretty, 80-degree day.
Overall, my experience with this trip will be one that I cherish for years to come. I do not believe I will ever get this lucky again and I hope that future winners of this contest have just as much fun as I did. The TaxSlayer Bowl and Jacksonville Sports Council did a very good job putting on this weekend for the fans.
As always, GO CATS!!!