John and Melissa Rowcroft at a Buffalo Bills game in January 2022
By: Angel Hoy
We all know that come September the folding tables in stores skyrocket in price in Buffalo because of the well known tradition of jumping through them in the Buffalo Bills parking lot. But have you ever wondered where this tradition and the tailgating tradition came from? But not just jumping through tables.
Tailgating is drinking lots of beer or making food in the parking lot before a sports or other large event, usually football or a concert. (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Tailgating) According to National Geographic tailgating has been around since the start of the civil war in 1861.(https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/history-of-tailgating-surprising-in-the-united-states) People went to watch in Washington D.C. the first battle of Bull Run. They were cheering on the confederates. People brought food; fruit, wine, beer, pies and meat. In 1866 came the Chuckwagon which is basically a wagon full of food and beer for the working men. It was pulled by mules or oxen. 3 years later there was tailgating at the first ever college football game, Rutgers University was in New Brunswick, New Jersey playing Princeton University. Beer, chili, corn and more assortments of food were consumed outside of the stadium. It was not called tailgating then, the theory is that the Green Bay Packers coined the term “tailgating” in 1919. (https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/history-of-tailgating-surprising-in-the-united-states) I am sure that the Bills Mafia will show Green Bay that we know how to tailgate on our lots come October 30 when we take them on at home.
Tailgating has evolved from watching battles to showing hometown teams support. From showing up early and having a cookout to a full face of facepaint and jumping through tables for fun. “The party starts right here, right now, lets go Bill” is a common cheer that is shouted in some parking lots at Bills games, says Melissa Rowcroft, a eighteen year season ticket holder who’s late husband John Rowcroft was a season ticket holder for 47 years.
“I think tailgating will be the same for the Bills games. It’s been the same for the last 30+ years, the only difference is the table jumping. I don’t know what else they (Bills fans and tailgaters) could come up with.” says Tony Kuhn who grew up watching the Bills play every Sunday and continues the tradition today.