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The History of Tailgating

Posted on August 17 2018

For many Americans, tailgating and sporting events go hand-in-hand, complete with scrumptious food, drinks, and friends. While this pregame tradition is popular for many attending both collegiate and professional games, have you ever wondered where the tailgating tradition started?

The Beginning

The National Geographic reports the practice dates back further than your old Green Bay tie, all the way to the beginning of the Civil War. In 1861, Washington D.C. civilians gathered around the now infamous Battle of the Bull Run. It was here that civilians would cheer on their side—Confederates or Union. Ladies would pack picnic baskets to enjoy throughout the battle, consuming minced meat, apple pies and plum puddings. It was also around this same time frame that aged whiskey and wine production were introduced, so chances are the colonists were enjoying some fine drinks as well.

Chuckwagon Era

Fast forward to 1866, Charles “Chuck” Goodnight is credited with inventing the cowboy’s traveling kitchen, also known as the chuckwagon. The chuckwagon was initially invented as a way to feed hungry working men who were building the railroad. Each wagon would be pulled by either a team of mules or oxen, bringing black-eyed peas, beef, stews, catfish and biscuits to the men. Over time, beer soon replaced whiskey as the working man’s drink of choice.

First College Football Game

A mere three years after the invention of the traveling kitchen, it is believed that the first ever tailgating event occurred at a college football game. It was in 1869 and Rutgers University and Princeton University were playing in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It was at this game that fans reportedly wore their team’s colors for the first time, while eating chili, pork, and corn, all washed down with either beer or whiskey.

Modern Tailgating

It wasn’t until 1919 that the Green Bay Packers first coined the term “tailgating” as it is known today. Fans of the Packers would park their pickup trucks around the field, sit in the beds, and enjoy a pregame party of food and drink with friends. During this time period, the popular foods that accompanied a tailgate would have included ham, potatoes, and custards.

Modern tailgating has evolved from its early roots, carrying on some of the traditions while incorporating others along the way. Whether you are returning to your alma mater to cheer on your team or are attending a Packers game with your Green Bay tie, you are guaranteed to see other enjoying the traditional tailgate party.

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