With football season upon us, I found myself wondering who first thought up the idea of tailgating. Who woke up one morning and said, “Hey, I know. Let’s drive our rig to the parking lot, pull out a cooler of beer, slap some dogs on the Hibachi, and pre-function ourselves into a frenzy!”?
As it turns out, the first partisan-based pep rally/picnic in America can be traced to the Civil War. Stephen Linn, in The Ultimate Tailgater’s Handbook (Rutledge Hill Press) explains, “Consider the Battle of Bull Run in 1861. Enthusiastic Union supporter from the Washington, D.C. area arrived with baskets of food and shouts of ‘Go Big Blue!’ to watch the opening battle in America’s Civil War. Historians generally agree this was a case of the right idea at the wrong time, war not being a spectator sport. Still, for those who attended, there was socializing and tradition, tension and excitement.”
Most legends, however, set modern tailgating firmly in 1869, when the first football game was played between Rutgers and Princeton in New Brunswick, New Jersey (Rutgers 6, Princeton 4, FYI). Fans traveled to the game in carriages and arrived hungry and thirsty. So they collected themselves at the – ahem – “tail” of their horses to eat, drink and socialize. And thus, a great American tradition was born.
Today, 240 million people tailgate at least once per year, according to a report published by Quicken Loans Racing and Beckon Media . And some organizations, such as the Tailgating Industry Association, estimate that fans spend $10 – $20 billion per year on tailgating for football alone. (Other popular tailgating sports include NASCAR racing and baseball.)
Many tailgate parties have become elaborate bacchanals, involving RVs, satellite dishes, corn hole games, gas grills, themed menus, and super-secret recipes. These are civil wars of a different kind: Michigan vs. Michigan State, Texas vs. Texas A&M, Army vs. Navy, Ducks vs. Beavers, etc., etc. – in high tailgate style.
We’ve also come a long way from throwing a few hotdogs on the Hibachi with potato salad on the side. Thanks to propane-fueled grills, tailgate menus now include more elaborate cuisine, such as kebobs, barbecued ribs, pork tenderloin, and chili poppers – as well as the traditional burgers and dogs.
If you’re a tailgater (or homegater) you can take your grilling game into the end zone with the Tailgate Grill Station – a hitch mounted grill that goes where you go and always stay outside your vehicle. Also great for picnics, camping, fishing and hunting trips, here are 5 of my favorite things about this groovy trailer hitch grill:
- Swingaway Frame: The patented frame pivots 90 degrees to create a safe and convenient kitchen/grill station – while giving me complete access to everything inside my vehicle. The grill also stays outside my rig to create more space inside – and eliminate gas and grill odors.
- Versatility: Not limited to tailgate grilling, the grill station is also great for camping, fishing and hunting. I can also take the grill off and use the frame/rack year-round for hauling up to 250 pounds of cargo.
- Hitch Grill or Tabletop: The Cuisinart grill converts to a tabletop for “homegating” – parties on the patio, dinner on the deck, or barbecues on the block.
- Extras Included: The Tailgate Grill Station includes a Cuisinart Grill, commercial-grade cutting board, patented Swingaway frame, rack for your cooler/tailgate gear, and hitch tightener.
- Best Warranty: It gives me great confidence to know that there’s a 10-year warranty on the Swingaway Frame & Rack and a 3-year warranty on the Cuisinart grill. Better, by far, than anything else I’ve found on the market.
Now that football season is here, I’m reminded of the great traditions, games and gatherings inspired by this sport – from as far back as the 1800s and well into the future.