By Jessica Mathews /

An annual contest that pits Wolverines and Spartans fans against each other kicks off this week.

The VINA Tailgate Party is the signature event for the non-profit with Michigan and Michigan State fans using their rivalry to raise money for the clinic, which offers affordable dental care to low-income, uninsured residents of Livingston County. Last year Michigan State broke the tie and took home the gold. Due to COVID-19, the Tailgate 2020 will be a 3-week long virtual party with and online auction, fundraising blitzes, and social media competitions. The Virtual Tailgate kicks off this Thursday and concludes on Friday, October 30th. Organizers say the online event still includes many fan favorites and friendly competition between Michigan and Michigan State fans.

VINA Executive Director Jim Gilmore said they were looking for a way to continue the 12-year tradition and turned to the virtual mode to allow their loyal supporters, as well as the loyal Green and Blue fans, to not miss the opportunity. He says long-term plans call for returning to a live in-person Tailgate in 2021 and Crystal Gardens is already reserved.

The Virtual Tailgate is said to be crucial for VINA because of the added expenses the clinic faces to adapt to COVID-19 requirements and continue serving people in need.

This year’s tailgate is said to be further significant because of the score between the teams. Michigan State is just barely ahead of Michigan with a score of 6-5. A Michigan victory leaves this year’s competition with a tie while a Michigan State win gives the Spartans a stronger lead for the future. Team captains Bill Anderson for Michigan and George Moses for Michigan State are pictured and will battle to lead their team to victory while raising money for VINA.

Bidding begins at 5:30pm Thursday and bidders must register online. Once registered, bidding can begin on auction items and the purchase of Dollar-for-Dollar gift cards. Bidding takes place throughout the three-week long virtual event. More information is available in the web link.