The Unusual Origin of Tailgating

Football season is officially here! If you’re a football fan, chances are that one of your favorite parts of the game is tailgating and getting ready to cheer on your favorite team before the kickoff has even begun. But did you know that tailgating is actually older than the sport of football itself?

The first recorded football game in history was held on November 6th, 1869 between collegiate rivals Rutgers University and New Jersey College (later renamed Princeton University). However, the first recorded instance of tailgating occurred on July 21, 1861—the date of the first Battle of Bull Run, a major clash between the Union and Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War. Prior to the beginning of the formal fighting, voyeurs looking to watch the fight loaded up wagons full of food, chairs and (of course) wine to cheer for their “team.” Despite the fact that the Civil War was a deadly conflict between two portions of the United States, records show that civilians on both sides came together to share their picnic baskets and food—an unusually sportsmanlike occurrence during a war. After the battle and eventually the war concluded, the tailgating tradition stuck around, eventually evolving into the flurry of food and fun we all know and enjoy before we cheer our team to victory. 

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