What is a "tailgate party"?

Please help an ignorant Aussie. After seeing a few movies over here about “hazing” incidents gone bad, eg. “Dying to Belong”, I have been fascinated by this bizarre (yet no doubt quite commom) practice. Upon doing research, I came across the term “Tailgate Party” referring to some sort of “Homecoming” tradition. Could you please tell me what a tailgate party is? Is this were “hazing” goes on? I’m intrigued! Here, to tailgate is to sit on someone’s arse while they’re driving eg. leaving virtually no room between yourself & the car in front. A tailgate is also the rear “door” of a hatch vehicle. No parties have ever been named here in the honour of these two things. Waiting to be enlighted!

In the U.S. a tailgate is, as you say, the rear “hatch” on a pickup truck. People tend to arrive at sporting events before they are allowed to enter the stadium, so they pass the time before the game by socializing in the parking lot. A “tailgate party” happens when someone (apparently who drove a pickup to the event) lowers his tail gate and opens up his ice chest. He may have beer (if allowed in the lot of the venue) or soft drinks or both. He may have brought a barbeque grill for grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. So a “tailgate party” is like a picnic in a parking lot, that is centred on the back ends of the vehicles parked there.

Oh – FWIW, “tailgating” here is driving too close to the vehicle ahead of you.

I’ve never actually been to a tailgate party, but I’ve been under the impression that hazing incidents are not part of them. I’m under the impression that hazing generally takes place on campuses.

“Homecoming” is an annual autumn event on many college campuses in which previous graduates return for a reunion and general festivities. It usually centers around a football game, the “Homecoming Game.” Selection of a “Homecoming Queen” from among the female students is also often included. “Tailgate parites” as described above may precede the game.

“Hazing” is an activity carried out at fraternities in which new members from the freshman class are forced to undergo various ordeals, often including drinking, to prove their worthiness to belong. Hazing can also be inflicted on underclassmen in general.

Incidentally, hazing is increasingly becoming illegal in the U.S. At the very least, it is restricted to things that can’t possibly harm the prospective members of the fraternity. There are probably still some fraternities who surreptiously continue hazing.

“Tailgate parties” are done by alumni (i.e., graduates of the university) rather than students. There are also many people who are longtime fans of a university’s teams who aren’t alumni but just people who live nearby and like to attend their sporting events. I think that tailgating is also common at professional sporting events. (Remember that in the U.S., unlike in Australia, college sports are very close to being minor leagues for professional sports. In (American) football and basketball, it’s hard to make it to the professional leagues without playing on a college team.

A lot of people prefer to “tailgate” at the stadiums than actually go inside to watch the game. A portable TV, to watch the game, backed up by the roar of the stadium; brats, burgers, ribs, and chicken cooking on the grill, and beer without being confined in a seat and some dipshit in front of you with a banner blocking your view is a LOT of fun! And with lots of other people doing the same, there’s a lot of intermixing to see what the other guys are cooking, lots of sharing of food, etc. Sometimes it’s a lot more fun than actually being inside.

One reference FYI -


Here in Chicago (yep, I live in Cecil territory) a tailgate party or “tailgaiting” is usually more fun than watching the game. Before a Bears game, my friends and I take pride in setting up elaborate
bar-b-cues that impress our neighbor tailgaters.
At the last game we set up 2 deep fryers heated by propane to cook up battered Walleye and Bass. We had two grills to cook up steaks and bratwurst. And, of course, we made repeated observations of my logon name! Next time we’re gonna deep fry a turkey.
Please try to start this tradition up Down Under, Psycho. It is a great time!

And for the record, one doesn’t need a pickup truck, or any other kind of vehicle with a tailgate, to throw a good tailgate party.

I’ve tailgated with many a vehicle, though oddly enough, never a pickup.


The term ‘tailgate party’ came (as has already been said) from having a party on the tailgate of a pickup truck - so there is a party named in honor of one of those things. It’s used to refer to pregame parties at sporting events, where people will arrive in the parking lot hours before the game and set up grills, coolers of beer, and sometimes big team banners etc. It doesn’t really have anything to do with tailgates anymore (plenty of tailgate parties are based around vans or cars), anytime someone sets up food and beer in the parking lot of a stadium before a game they’re having a tailgate party. IMO, tailgate parties are popular because you don’t have to arrive right at game time (and deal with the traffic etc.), you can get good food and beer a whole lot cheaper than in the stadium (stadium food and drink are slightly marked up), and you can wander between various tailgate parties to talk to other people a lot easier than you can move around a stadium.

Some photographs of tailgate parties:

Photo 2
Photo 3 Photo 3 Photo 4

Planning your tailgate party :slight_smile:

There are even vehicles you can buy equipped for tailgate parties. Dodge, I think, is advertising a “tailgate edition” pickup truck locally, complete with grill and cooler. I haven’t seen it, and I have great difficulty imaging someone buying a purpose-built vehicle for it. It seems more likely they just throw a package of party supply stuff in with the purchase price of the vehicle.

Damn, this whole thread makes me want to go tailgating RIGHT NOW!

On a historical note, I’m not sure that the “tailgate” term necessarily began with pickup trucks. The term originated in an era when station wagons and hatchback cars were more common and I believe that these were the prototypical tailgate vehicles.

Given the reputation of Aussies as an easygoing, fun-loving crowd, tailgating seems like a natural for Australia. Psychotropic, the next time you go to one of those cool Australian-rules football games, get up a tailgate party and start a trend!

And if you come to America, remember: Tailgating on the expressway and hazing are bad things. Tailgate parties are a good thing!

The original “tailgate parties” were held on the back gate of station wagons. Hatchbacks came along a little later. Pickups are actually very poor for tailgating, except possibly as an auxiliary vehicle for bringing in grills, etc. They don’t provide protection from the elements and aren’t as accessible as vans, SUVs, and other types. I promise you that here in Mississippi, if the pickup was good for tailgating, we’d have invented it.

I suppose the type of hazing being referred to is pressuring someone, such as a fraternity pledge, to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol. I could see that happening at a tailgate party.

Unfortunately, us Aussies are a lazy bunch and I think people would rather just stand around the barbie at home with a can in one hand and a sausage in bread in the other getting BLOTTO. At least then you don’t have 2 worry about driving home & the cops here are absolute NAZI’S about drink-driving. A tailgate party sounds awesome so I might have 2 wait until my next trip to the USA before indulging in one. :smiley:

Here in Green Bay Packer territory, a tailgate party requires beer & brats. The stadium is usually sold out, so a portable TV in the parking lot is the best compromise, and you get to feel more part of the game than watching from home.

As in my reply to another post, I must re-iterate that Aussies are basically LAZY. We’re laid back and anything that’s too much trouble can basically “get stuffed”. Most AFL games are played in the city (Melbourne), either at the MCG or Colonial Stadium. Most Victorians live in the outer suburbs so it’s just too much of a hassle to drive all the way into the city or catch the train. Our idea of a fun time is a group of friends going over to a mate’s place and watching the “game” or match as we’d call it, and having a barbie & BYO grog. You can stand around & chat, laugh and not worry about the cops hassling you for drinking in a “dry-zone” or getting a bit boisterous. I don’t think the cops would like it if people were hanging out in the carpark getting pissed. Never know what mischief they might get up to! Aussies LUV to drink & it would kinda put a dampner on it if a few people had to drive home. At least at a mates you can crash the nite or only drive a short distance to get home (and hopefully dodge those nasty booze buses!)


In a couple of hours I’ll be heading down the interstate from Chi for the Bears/Packers game in C-U.

Let ya know tomorrow what the tailgate scene is like.

I hope you’re not doing that “short” drive while drunk. The thing that makes up for the lack of highway speeds is local streets’ cross traffic. Bad ideas.