The Tradition of Tailgating

Tailgating and grilling at football game.Here in Louisiana we love sports. This is especially true when it comes to football. Whether it’s high school, college or NFL, football dominates our weekends in the fall. We also love any excuse for a good party, celebrating with our friends and sharing a great meal. The tradition of tailgating for Louisiana sports is the perfect marriage because it merges traditional and new-age aspects of Cajun culture.

The Origins of Tailgating

You might think the tailgate party originated in the frozen parking lot of Lambeau Field when Vince Lombardi presided over the Green Bay Packers in the early years of the NFL. Or, perhaps you associate tailgating with college football Saturdays and young people dressed in their school colors. In both cases, you’d be wrong. No one really knows which team’s sports fans threw the first party, but enjoying food and drink while watching a contest between opposing forces has been in practice since the Civil War.

That’s right. It may seem morbid but at least one battle of the Civil War included spectators on both sides who brought their own vittles. At Bull Run in 1861, the soldiers on both sides of the event were cheered by their supporters. Thankfully, the tailgating denizens of today’s sporting events aren’t subjected to life and death struggles.

It does make you wonder, however, if the Romans had their own version of this cultural phenomenon. Nothing goes better with a burger and soda than gladiators battling lions and each other to the death.

Tailgating Traditions

Each specific region of the country has their own unique tailgating traditions. In Chicago, brats and beer might dominate the fare. In Dallas, barbecue will likely be served. In Louisiana, it’s not uncommon to see Cajun fare.

Our tailgate parties might include a big ole gumbo or pot of jambalaya. You could also find grilled shrimp and other delicacies. Don’t expect to see any crawfish, though. That’s a springtime deal, and we have our own festivals to celebrate the mudbug. We also like barbecue, hot dogs, hamburgers and the standard sports food…with a touch of Cajun spice, of course.

It’s also common in all areas of the country for these parties to be largely a celebration of the home team. We’re laid back in Cajun Country, so everyone is welcome. Well, almost everyone. An Alabama Crimson Tide tee-shirt might get you moved to the end of the line under the best of circumstances.

Cajun Culture and Tailgating

You might recognize gumbo as a culinary dish, but we also use that word to describe a gathering of friends and family. It’s been that way since we got here. Everyone gathers together and many contribute to the spread. We eat, we laugh and we have a good time.

Tailgate parties in the parking lot of the Superdome or outside the stadiums where our college teams play have a lot in common with Cajun gatherings. Everyone brings a little something and all share. It’s communal, and that’s why it works so well with our lifestyle.

You see, we learned a long time ago that getting together and enjoying life helps to preserve and solidify the bond we share. Not just as sports fans but as human beings. That’s the Cajun way.

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