Think tailgating is a beer-swilling pastime for college kids and race fan types? Time to lose those stereotypes and experience this classic American tradition for yourself.
“The roots of tailgating stretch all the way back to the Civil War,” said Southern epicurean/lifestyle columnist Doc Lawrence, managing editor of Wines Down South. “It was born out of college football, but is by no means confined to college football today … The Grateful Dead did wonders to popularize tailgating, and you still see a huge amount of it at Jimmy Buffett and Willie Nelson concerts.”
While Lawrence and other tailgating fans agree that the South is the heartland of tailgating, people from Michigan to California have gotten into it – whether because of team spirit, its social aspects, or purely for the food and drink. And this last aspect, by all accounts, is getting better every year.
“Ten years ago, it was pedestrian,” said Lawrence. “Now, at the major tailgate events, you find great sophistication regarding food, flavors, music, and friendships.”
Further evidence of this trend can be found at the Great Southern Tailgate Cookoff, an annual event organized by the Amelia Island (Florida) convention and visitors bureau. Rather than building off athletic team affiliation, this delicious summer party brings barbecue teams together in competition.
“We started the Great Southern Tailgate Cookoff as a way to celebrate three great Southern traditions: the beginning of the college football season, cooking out with friends and fans of your favorite school, and going to the beach,” said CEO Gil Langley. But Langley also said, “There tends to be a lot more time and effort put into preparing and enjoying the food, drink, and entertainment experience of tailgating when people know they don’t have to pack up and head into the stadium.”