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A tailgate party is a social event held on and around the open tailgate of a vehicle. Tailgating, which originated in the United States, often involves consuming alcoholic beverages and grilling food. Tailgate parties occur in the parking lots at stadiums and arenas, before and occasionally after games and concerts. People attending such a party are said to be 'tailgating'. Many people participate even if their vehicles do not have tailgates. Tailgate parties also involve people bringing their own alcoholic beverages, barbecues, food etc. which is sampled and shared among fans attending the tailgate. Tailgates are intended to be non-commercial events, so selling items to the fans is frowned upon.
Tailgate parties have spread to the pre-game festivities at sporting events besides football, such as basketball, hockey, soccer, and baseball, and also occur at non-sporting events such as weddings, barbecues, and concerts.
The very first tailgate occurred at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. Civilians of America traveled to Washington D.C. to witness the Civil War battle and brought along a chuck-wagon that carried picnic style food and a means to cook it in the back of a horse drawn wagon. This was the earliest recorded event that had fans cheering on different sides with food to hold them over.
Food and drink
Tailgating typically involves the consumption of alcoholic beverages or soft drinks and the grilling of various meat products. Popular tailgate party foods include picnic staples such as hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, and cold salads like coleslaw or potato salad. Some food products were created because of tailgate parties. A brand of pimento cheese, called Palmetto Cheese, got its start at Atlanta Braves tailgate parties.
Lawn games such as KanJam, cornhole, Ladder Golf, Polish horseshoes, Louisville Chugger, Jarts and Sholf are very popular during tailgates and tailgate parties. Lawn games are associated with tailgating primarily because of the simplicity in the game materials. Lawn games carry the connotation of drinking games because of their presence during tailgates. Other games include beer pong, ladder toss, washer pitching and flipcup. It is also common for fans to bring out stereo equipment to tailgate parties to dance.
In schools and communities throughout the United States, there are athletic departments, coaches and parents of student athletes who rely on post-game tailgating parties to build community and support for their program and team. Smaller, underfunded programs are assisted by the voluntary participation of parents and friends to feed the team and coaching staff post-competition, which establishes a strong core of support year after year.
In popular culture
The previously underground subculture is now a part of the mainstream sports media. In 1993, ESPN's pre-game college football show College GameDay took on a tailgate-party atmosphere by placing the hosts on a portable stage set at the campus of the school hosting the week's marquee rivalry matchup with fans gathering around it to celebrate. The Fox network's NASCAR on Fox and Fox NFL Sunday have also used similar setups. Veteran broadcaster John Madden has brought attention (and cameras) into the tailgating lots for years. Madden is the author of a book entitled John Madden's Ultimate Tailgating, released in 1998.
In 2007, the NFL angered many football fans by banning tailgating before the Super Bowl. The NFL cited security risks, though many suspected it had more to do with corporate sponsored events than any real threat. In 2008, an online petition began circulating to encourage the NFL to lift the no tailgating at the Super Bowl policy. Members of the sports media also questioned the validity of NFL's claim that security concerns was the real reason for the ban.
In the Simpsons episode "Any Given Sundance", Homer takes his family to a tailgate party. He makes them get up early in order to be at the stadium hours before the football game, and states that "the game is nothing", the tailgate party being the only reason for their being there.
Season 3 of the Travel Channel original series Man v. Food had a tailgating special consisting of various segments from previous episodes that featured food that would make an ultimate tailgate party.
A number of television commercials, especially those aired during football games, feature tailgating culture, including those for Bud Light beer and cellphones.
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