The Red River Rivalry, which is actually played 80 miles from its eponymous river, took on a whole new meaning at a Texas Department of Transportation event held at the Travel Information Center off U.S. Highway 75 in Denison on Friday afternoon. There, a few dozen fans of both teams found themselves toe-to-toe with one another, just a few football fields away from the banks of the river separating the two states.

The Red River Rivalry, which is actually played 80 miles from its eponymous river, took on a whole new meaning at a Texas Department of Transportation event held at the Travel Information Center off U.S. Highway 75 in Denison on Friday afternoon. There, a few dozen fans of both teams found themselves toe-to-toe with one another, just a few football fields away from the banks of the river separating the two states.


The pep band from B. McDaniel Middle School was on hand, with accompanying cheerleaders, providing some football-appropriate music for the stream of fans milling among several booths providing food and giveaways sponsored by local and regional organizations.


This year marks the first time TxDOT has made a concerted, statewide effort promoting driver safety surrounding the Red River Rivalry, said Travel Services Director Bryan Frazier. He explained that studies have shown that the Friday before the Texas-OU rivalry game is an incredibly high traffic day.


"The game itself doesn’t need any more hype," said Frazier. "But we’ve found that people on these long trips plan everything down to the last detail, but they don’t usually plan to take breaks. So this event is about encouraging people to think ‘safety.’"


Frazier said the organization hopes to expand the activities next year beyond the four events in Denison, Amarillo, Gainesville and Wichita Falls that were held on Friday. While the events weren’t about picking sides, allegiances were clear Friday.


For Denison resident Chad McKee, who came to watch his son play in the B. Mac band, the Oklahoma shirt and shorts made it obvious. The matching socks and slippers screamed it.


"My OU glasses broke!" he said as he watched the band warm up. "I thought about getting some lipstick and painting ‘O’ and ‘U’ on there," he said, gesturing to a pair of worn sunglasses on his face.


Ron Butterfield and his wife Kay were appointed in Oklahoma gear as well, albeit a tad more understated. The Butterfields were on their way down from Tulsa to watch their grandson play for the Longhorns — the Allen Longhorns, that is.


"We’ve got to go to our 11-year-old grandson’s game tomorrow, so we’re taping Texas-OU," said Ron Butterfiled. "We just happened to stop, and boy am I glad we did."


While the crowd definitely was skewed toward OU — mostly because of the travel center’s location — more than a few Texas fans could be found, munching on hot dogs provided by the city of Denison.


Pat Blankenship, who used to work at the travel center, rolled her eyes when asked about Texas’ chances in the rivalry game. But, Texas-proud to the bone, she defended her home turf.


"The only reason the OU fans are outnumbering the Texas fans is because they’re travelling to the game, so they’re headed that way," she said. "When they had to make a pit stop, they just happened to get lucky that we were having a celebration for the game."


TxDOT officials said they’re just happy those travelers stopped in the first place.