One of the great American traditions involves friends, food, and maybe some beer along the way leading up to the game. Tailgating has become a staple in our culture today, especially during football season. It’s a great excuse to show up hours before a game, eat great food cooked from the back of someone’s truck, and make friends with complete strangers before kickoff. But where did this uniquely American tradition start? Let’s find out.
The first tailgate celebration is believed to have occurred near the start of the Civil War. Civilians traveled out from Washington, DC to witness the first Battle of Bull Run in 1861. Enjoying picnic baskets full of food, they cheered on their “team” from distant areas surrounding the battle sites. Of course war is a little scarier of a proposition than the sports we watch today, but back then people had to get excited about something! This is one of the first documentations in American history of people cheering before and during an event while sharing food and company. These “fans” (not to mention those who fought) obviously braved a few more dangers than today’s tailgaters, but they laid the groundwork for future sports fans. While this is the earliest example of eating and spending time with friends and family before a big event, a football game between Rutgers and Princeton was the first example of tailgating we see that resembles how we do it today. It also marked one of the first times fans dressed up wearing sportswear and colors of their respective teams. Tailgating is a great way to ensure you have a good time at the stadium regardless of whether your team wins or loses.
There are now watch parties where thousands of fans who don’t have tickets gather to eat, drink, and hangout and then watch the game just outside the stadium.
Some diehard tailgaters don’t even attend games; they just set up a TV and an eating area in the stadium parking lot to take in the environment on game days. If nothing else, the tailgating tradition is all about companionship. Don’t forget to add Sole’ Soups, Chowders, Chilis, and Salads to the mix for a delicious and unforgettable pre-game meal.