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What is a Tailgate Party?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 23, 2024
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A tailgate party is a type of social gathering held in parking lots before — and often after — an event like a concert, football game, baseball game, or other attraction. Participants use open car tailgates for impromptu seating and access to ice chests, food, folding chairs, and other party necessities.

People with similar interests gather at a tailgate party to socialize and celebrate the event they’re attending. The party might be localized in a certain area of the parking lot where people spontaneous gather around vehicles that are tailgating. At other events, gathering virtually encompasses the entire parking lot.

For events with an established history of tailgating, partygoers might arrive hours before the event is scheduled to start. Participants often bring miniature grills for barbecuing, and many pack ice-chests with their favorite libations. Enthusiastic tailgaters might even choose to bring a recreational vehicle for access to a kitchen, refrigerator, and convenient bathroom.

In some cases, a recurring tailgate party connected to an event can grow to develop a reputation over the years that rivals that of the event itself. Such was the case with the longest touring band in history, The Grateful Dead. For decades, dedicated fans or Deadheads followed the band throughout the United States, many making a home in the events that surrounded the concerts. Deadheads who followed the band supported themselves by selling wares, jewelry, tie dye, incense, food and a variety of other items during the party, which resembled a massive traveling show.

A tailgate party is a great way to celebrate with strangers who fast become friends, if only for the day. Some events do not allow tailgating, as the management company that controls the parking lot might forbid alcohol or loitering. This can result in a stiff fine, so event-goers should be sure to check the rules before attending. It is also wise for people to limit any alcohol consumption to the party that precedes the event, unless a designated driver is available for the drive home.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon210436 — On Aug 30, 2011

I think that a tailgate party is not a good idea.

By Charlie89 — On Jul 26, 2010

Wings, sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers are all classic tailgate party food.

If you want to go all out you can bring a grill and make it all fresh on site.

Of course, don't forget the chips and dip, veggie plates, and drinks for everybody!

Hope you enjoy!

By pleats — On Jul 26, 2010

What are some good tailgating recipes? I want to hold a football tailgate party and need some food ideas.

By galen84basc — On Jul 26, 2010

In the South, tailgating can become almost a sacred cultural event.

A lot of times people will buy season tickets for their favorite teams year after year, and hold huge tailgate parties.

Over the years, they get to know all the other tailgaters, which makes the environment even more fun!

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