The History of Tailgating

ryanCSAH(SB), Study Break

Study Break

The History of Tailgating



Common Sense American History

The temperatures are beginning to cool, the leaves are turning color, and there is a crispness in the air. This means one thing. It’s time to tailgate!

Tailgates are an American tradition that are traced back to…the American Civil War? As noted in Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Times (a place where they know how to tailgate), “the basics of tailgating – groups congregating with food and drink to cheer together for their ‘team’ – actually started at the 1861 Battle of Bull Run in the American Civil War when civilians from both sides gathered with picnic baskets to watch the battle and root for their soldiers.”

Partying at battlefields didn’t catch on, so it wasn’t until November 6, 1869 when the first American college football game was played between Rutgers and Princeton, and where, the legend goes, players and spectators wore identifiable team colors and brought their own refreshments.

Another claimant to the “we started tailgating” fame, is Yale. As covered in the Yale Daily News (perhaps self-serving in this case?) “Legend has it that hungry fans at a 1904 Yale game felt a need for refreshment and initiated the tradition.”


Many fans had to travel to the game via train, and, with no food vendors at stadiums at this time, brought along their own food and drink. With limited space at stadiums, fan were compelled to travel early to secure seats, and what better way to kill time than to consume your own refreshments?

While people have argued about the origins, everyone agrees that tailgates are a big deal – to such an extent that sometimes people don’t bother to go to watch the game at all. They have full functioning living rooms with them!

Other sports like baseball have tailgates, but football simply dominates, with games only happening once a week, making it more of a special occasion. Arguments abound on which team has the best. Multiple lists have the LSU Tigers with the best college football tailgate, and the Buffalo Bills having a lock on the NFL side.

For many, tailgating isn’t a party, it’s a lifestyle. Many websites that describe essentials, including Recipes, televisions, and games! Some people even creative vehicles only for tailgating. This great American tradition has something fun for anyone at any age!

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