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At The 1861 Battle Of Bull Run, Union Army Supporters Had A Tailgate Party


We know it’s autumn by the colors and scents of the season. Most notably, those colors are related to our favorite football teams and the smells of grilling burgers and brats at our tailgate parties. That’s why we recognize the first Saturday in September as National Tailgating Day!

Tailgating is the custom of gathering outside the stadium before the game with fans of the same team for food, beverages and socializing. Gatherings often take place at the tailgate of a pickup truck or the trunk of a car, but neither are required. Grilling and beer are staples of the tailgate party, though chili competitions and recipe challenges are not out of the question. Come hungry!

The original tailgate is unknown. Many teams take pride in claiming this title, as they should.

Tailgating does center around the sport of football. While football has its roots in the game of rugby, it is generally accepted that the first football game in United States history was on November 6, 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton Universities. Fans arrived early to enjoy each others company and some food.

  • Caesar may have been history’s first recorded tailgater.  The Romans were good at a lot of things: building amazing monuments, conquering distant lands, political intrigue, and knowing how to throw a really awesome (and toga-filled) party. Some credit Caesar with being the first to tailgate, right out of the back of a chariot. The story goes that after a particularly crazy chariot race, the leader opened up the Coliseum, inviting people in to enjoy food, drink, and various types of entertainment
  • People actually tailgated at Civil War battles.  At the Battle of Bull Run in 1861, Union Army supporters showed up with some food and drinks and loudly cheered on the soldiers while hanging out in their carriages.
  • Some of the first tailgate parties were held for Ivy League teams.
    Some believe that tailgating dates back to the very first football game ever played between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869, when fans traveled to the game by horse-drawn carriage, grilling sausages at the “tail-end” of the horse and spawning the term “tailgating.”
  • The idea for eating out of the back of a car may have started in 1866 with Charles Goodnight.  This Texas rancher and entrepreneur noticed that the cowboys he employed needed a way to eat on the road, so he transformed a U.S. Army Studebaker wagon into a mobile kitchen.
  • Green Bay Packer tailgaters hold the record for braving the coldest weather to support their team.  Wisconsin winters are notoriously brutal, but that doesn’t keep these superfans from setting up shop in the parking lots. In 1967, fan braved a wind chill of 48 degrees below zero to see the Packers defeat the Cowboys in what would become known as the “Ice Bowl.”
  • The average tailgater spends more than $500 per year on food for tailgating.
  • 30% of tailgaters don’t even attend the game.
  • A 2006 ranking named Baltimore as America’s best tailgating city.
  • The top five most-purchased items by tailgaters during the 2006 football season were (in order) cooler, grill, alcohol, furniture, and meat.
  • 1933 – The first year of the annual meeting between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators at a “neutral site” in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s now nicknamed the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
  • 1957 – The year Coleman introduced the plastic cooler.
  • 4% of tailgaters are between 12-20; 60% are between the ages of 25-44; 9% are over 55 years old.
  • 46% Tailgate 6-10 times a season; 21 Tailgate 11-15 times; 8% Tailgate at more than 16 games in a season.
  • 9% of tailgaters set-up 1-2 house prior; 51% set-up 3-4 hours before the game;
    39% set-up more than 5 hours before kick-off.


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