The everlasting spirit of tailgating in America

UTEP+fans+and+students+enjoy+some+pregame+activities+before+the+first+game+of+the+season+kicks+off+in+the+Mike+Loya+parking+lot+located+on+the+corner+of+Schuster+and+Hawthorn.+

Roman P. Carr

UTEP fans and students enjoy some pregame activities before the first game of the season kicks off in the Mike Loya parking lot located on the corner of Schuster and Hawthorn.

Katrina Villarreal, Staff Reporter

Tailgating has always been associated with football games, but did not get its start with football. People from all over America gather around during the football season, whether it is for college or professional football, to park in stadium lots with RV’s enjoy good food, drinks and the game.  

Tailgating is a tradition that has been around since the late 1800s. According to National Geographic, the first tailgate was in 1861 for the Battle of the Bull Run which was the Civil War’s first battle. Americans in Washington gathered to watch the event with picnic baskets full of food. A few years later people started seeing tailgating at football games. 

The History Channel reported that the first tailgate at a football game was in 1869 to watch the Rutgers vs. Princeton game, which was during the rise of the automobile. Fans gathered to watch the game from the back of wagons with meals to eat during the game. The History Channel also mentions how these events started being called “tailgating” as they evolved. No one knows where the name came from, but it is believed to come from Yale sports information director Charley Loftus.  

Many places have their own traditions of tailgating. For example, the Buffalo Bills fan base known as the “Bills Mafia” has two well-known traditions of their own that they do during the tailgate season.  

The first tradition is that fans will jump from a high point and fall onto a table, this is known as the table break. One fan even set himself on fire to perform this tradition. The second known tradition to Bills Mafia comes from a man named Ken Johnson, otherwise known as Pinto Ron, who has other tailgate attendees shower him with mustard and ketchup as he holds his hotdog. Pinto Ron has been a longtime fan of the Bills and has been attending games since 1994. 

Tailgating traditions are no rarity to the El Paso area, though. UTEP fans gather around every year during the football season with their RVs, grills and chairs to enjoy the time before the game starts. Fans began to fill the parking lots of UTEP as early as Friday morning, which is a day before the game. Some fans have been tailgating for over 20 years while others are just starting out their tailgating endeavors.  

Hector and Veronica Cota have been tailgating for three years. They mention that they were bummed when the football season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that did not stop them from tailgating. For them, the spirit of tailgating never left. 

“During COVID-19, we did driveway tailgating at our house,” Hector Cota said.  

“We would park our RV in our driveway, open it up and do the tailgates from there,” Veronica Cota said. 

The reason the Cota’s tailgate is because of their kids and their love for the game of football. They mention that their son has been playing football since he was 5 years old. So, they wanted to give him the experience of tailgating. 

“It’s just our thing,” he said. “(UTEP) is closer to home so of course we’re going to do it.” 

The Cota’s also mention that music is a big part of their tailgating tradition. 

“I think if you have good music, you’re going to have a good time,” she said. 

Terry Maya is no stranger to tailgating., She and her family have done it for 20 years. They have been tailgating since their kids were little and playing football in the parking lot. 

“We didn’t have this (the RV), we literally tailgated on the back of trucks, and we’d set up tents,” Maya said. 

Maya mentioned that her reason for tailgating was for the kids when they were little, but now that their kids are grown, she and her friends and family gather just for fun. 

“We do it to support UTEP,” Maya said. “We are big supporters of UTEP football and basketball, we were season ticket holders. When the kids were little, it was all about the kids but now it’s all about the adults.” 

Katrina Villarreal is a staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected]