Tailgating is a huge event that transcends partying and is a way of life.
I used to work on a food truck that was part of the UM-Missoula stadium concessions.
We would park the food truck whenever a football game, concert, or other special occurrence occurred.
We worked at some major events, including concerts by Paul McCartney and other musicians.
However, the swarms of fans were always at their largest for the football games.
Hands down, Montana Griz games were the busiest and wildest events I worked at (not to mention the coldest).
But despite the sometimes single-digit temps, Griz fans always came out in masses to support their team.
Not only did they show up to the game.
They were some of the most dedicated tailgaters I have ever seen.
What does this kind of dedication look like?
I’m not just talking about a cooler of beers and a portable grill in the back of a pickup, either.
I’m talking huge buses converted into tailgate party sanctuaries and tricked-out RVs.
Vehicles specially designed for this purpose only cost tens of thousands of dollars (or more).
Many of these opulent, mobile tailgating sanctoriums came complete with things like:
- gourmet kitchens
- built-in bars
- multiple big-screen TVs
- state-of-the-art sound systems
Some even had disco balls and stripper poles.
The effort and money spent on some of these tailgating setups was astounding.
And these fans would party all day long.
A road goes around the stadium, and as early as 6 a.m., the buses start rolling in and lining up.
Each proudly displays its Griz Nation pride with colorful paint jobs, waving flags, and many stuffed and drawn grizzly bears in various shenanigans.
Often, the party would spill out the doors of these luxury party buses and onto the sidewalk.
People would set up food tables and lounges with actual sofas and chairs.
Some buses even had outside-mounted TV screens so people could keep up with what was happening.
Rain, shine, snow, or ice, Griz fans were willing to spend a lot of time and ridiculous amounts of money on their tailgating thrills.
After watching these football party fanatics for many weekends of my life, I wondered how tailgating became such a fascinating American pastime.
So, I did some research in honor of National Tailgating Day on September 2.
Here is a little history and a lot of fun information on the subject!
What is Tailgating?
Tailgating is associated with a social gathering in the parking lots or set areas around stadiums and arenas.
It involves fans gathering to grill food, drink, play games, and generally mingle before heading into the venue.
While it’s present at various sporting events worldwide, tailgating is generally linked to American football.
How Did Tailgating Originate?
Some suggest that tailgating has historical roots in early American history.
The concept of gathering for a meal and socialization before a public event is linked to community picnics or even military campaigns, where soldiers would eat and socialize before battle.
Others suggest that tailgating started with the advent of American college football in the late 19th century.
One popular story credits the first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869 as the birth of tailgating.
Fans arrived with food and beverages to enjoy a pre-game picnic.
Evolution of Tailgating
Over the years, tailgating has evolved from a simple pre-game picnic to a well-organized and often elaborate event.
This is partly attributed to the rise of the automobile and the construction of extensive parking facilities adjacent to stadiums.
Many fans take their tailgating seriously.
Much like the Griz Nation, they invest in specialized equipment like tailgate trailers with high-end cooking and entertainment features.
For many people, the tailgate party is as important as the event itself.
It’s an opportunity for fans to show team spirit, build rapport, and enjoy traditional gameday festivities.
What Teams Have the Most Dedicated Tailgaters?
Some colleges and sports teams are particularly famous for their robust traditions.
The schools and teams listed below have always been noted as having large and passionate communities.
- University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) – The Grove at Ole Miss is often cited as one of college football’s most iconic tailgating spots.
- Louisiana State University (LSU) – LSU is famous for its extensive setup, elaborate meals, and die-hard fans.
- University of Alabama – Tailgating is a significant part of the game-day experience in Tuscaloosa, where fans set up ornate tents and roll out plenty of Southern hospitality.
- University of Wisconsin – Fans here are known for their enthusiasm and willingness to brave even the coldest weather to support their team.
- Green Bay Packers – Lambeau Field, the home of the Packers, is known for its tailgating scene, often featuring the iconic “Cheeseheads.”
- Denver Broncos – Tailgating at Mile High is a big event, often featuring ski and snowboarding equipment and the usual grills and beers.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Arrowhead Stadium is famous for its tailgating community, with masses of barbecue in a sea of red and gold.
- Buffalo Bills – Bills fans, or “Bills Mafia,” are known for their wild tailgate parties, featuring everything from table smashing to elaborate barbecue setups.
What are Tailgating Competitions?
Tailgating competitions get organized as part of larger events or festivals, especially the ones centered around football.
These competitions are typically informal.
Participants vie for prizes based on their food quality, tailgating setup’s creativity, or team spirit.
A few types of competitions include:
Best Setup- Competitors may be judged on the creativity and comfort of their tailgating setup.
Team Spirit- Evaluates how well the tailgaters promote their team through clothing, signs, songs, and other expressions of enthusiasm.
Best Food- Often, a significant part of tailgating competitions revolves around food. Participants might compete in food challenges such as best grilling, side dishes, or desserts.
While many schools and organizations host competitions as part of their pre-game festivities, some events have gained wider recognition.
For instance, the World Food Championships has a “Budweiser Tailgate Cookoff” where participants can compete tailgate-style.
They enhance the community aspect and give fans another way to express their spirit and creativity.
It is a cultural phenomenon
Tailgating has undoubtedly become a cultural phenomenon.
It’s a celebration of sports and the social aspects that make tailgating a cherished tradition for many people.
Have you ever been tailgating at a sporting event?
Which team did you go all out for?
What was your favorite part about the experience?
Tell us about it in the comment section!
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