What Is a Tailgate Party and What Do You Bring?

Have you ever heard of tailgating before? Popular during football season, tailgating is simply sitting in the back hatch of your car, SUV or truck and eating or socializing. Groups often host tailgate parties before a sporting event, but it’s become a popular method of gathering during the pandemic where people needed to be spaced out at least six feet apart. If you’ve been invited to a tailgate party and aren’t sure what to bring or where to even begin, we’ve got you covered.

fans tailgating

How Tailgating Got Its Start

Like most things, tailgating as it stands here in America got its start due to war. In fact, the first recorded tailgate happened in 1861, during an American Civil War Battle. Families gathered on the hillside to watch the battle unfold, bringing the picnic baskets and shouting for their preferred side. And, if that seems like something straight out of a dystopian young adult fiction novel, then you’ll be happy to know that spectating war battles didn’t become a popular tradition for tailgating. Instead, tailgating actually gained popularity when portable grills and cars started being mass produced. Instead of these items only being for the rich and famous, cars and grills became household staples in the mid-1940s and 1950s. As the National Football League also gained traction, so did collegiate football and, yes, the tailgate. 

Shop Our Football Gifts Perfect for Tailgates! 

Nowadays, friends, families and many others all come together during the few hours before a sports game or during a college event, such as homecoming, to tailgate. Food, music, camp chairs, blankets and even furry friends all make an appearance during tailgates. Many also deck themselves out in team-themed gear. You’ll often find a sea of personalized football shirts, too, featuring monograms, unique color patterns or even someone’s favorite player. From striped knee-high socks to faces painted in elaborate patterns, tailgating is one of the many ways that fans can show their support for their team while enjoying the moments before a game.

man grilling

How to Prepare for a Tailgate

Prepping for a tailgate is actually pretty easy, once you know what to do. Here are some tips for prepping for a tailgate party! 

  • Make sure you’ve got the right vehicle. A vehicle with a hatch is essential for good tailgating. Sedans aren’t really right for it. Instead, SUVs, crossovers, trucks and even hatchback cars are all great options for tailgates. If you have a sedan, consider riding with someone who has a vehicle with a hatch so that you can lift the door and sit in the back. 
  • Get a pop-up tent. A 10’ x 10’ pop-up tent is always a good investment for a tailgate. Depending on when you’re tailgating, you might need some shade from the sun or shelter from the rain. A pop-up tent is great because you can put it flush against your car and also keep your personal items under the tent. It’s a great way to establish a barrier with other attendees, too — if they aren’t part of your group, they won’t come under the tent unless you invite them, usually. Make sure you have weights if you’re tailgating in a parking lot and not somewhere you can nail the tent down!

fans going to football stadium

  • Have some towels available. During college football season, it can be hot out. The same goes for derby season or even baseball season. Either way, tailgating usually happens outside, so towels for sweating or sitting are always a good idea. Towels also make for great gifts for football fans, so you can make sure to have some on hand to give any of your fellow tailgating friends so you all can have matching items for your tailgate. 
  • Decide on a menu. If you’re not tailgating with a group, you’ll need to bring all the snacks and drinks you think you’ll use during the tailgate. However, if you’re tailgating with friends and splitting the duties among yourselves, then you’ll need to decide who’s bringing what. Figuring this out early on will ensure that no one will have too much or not enough of the necessary food and drink items. Pro tip: Be wary of glass during a tailgate. While it might seem like a great time to get out the personalized football glassware, tailgating might not be the best time. Instead, go with something durable like a stainless steel tumbler. You can get a full set as football gifts for your tailgating friends, or you can just order some for yourself. They’ll keep your drinks hot or cold and won’t break if they get knocked over!
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