A tailgate party is just like any old party but it’s held in a parking lot, with people gathered around the open tailgate of a vehicle or two. But real tailgating can occur with vehicles that, gasp, don’t even have tailgates. It’s as democratic as its birthplace, the United States.
These days, it seems that if you park your Toyota Prius in an open space, around the time of a big event, and your booze and BBQ snacks are plentiful, then you are tailgating, my friend.
For the American South, tailgating isn’t an excuse to eat and drink—it’s a religion. And it’s no wonder then why tailgate parties are such a scene for country music. It’s country everything at most of these things, from the mason jars of homemade honey moonshine to the BBQ being piled on paper plates with no regard for the “meat sweats” that may come.
Despite the south’s love of a good tailgate, the real inventors of the tailgate party were those damn Yanks! During the First Battle of Bull Run, civilians traveled by buggy from Washington D.C. on a beautiful summer day to support the Union showed by shouting “Go Big Blue” at the Yankees in battle. Not to be bothered by the fighting, they brought picnic baskets, and spread out blankets on a hill near the first major battlefield of the Civil War.
The South actually turned the ingredients of a good tailgate—food, families and music—into an event for chuckwagon racing. As the tide of the Battle of Bull Run turned in favor of the Rebels, people quickly packed up their wagons and sped back to Washington, clogging the narrow roadways in their haste to reach safety.
Thank goodness the tailgate party is no longer reserved for feats of war or athleticism. Tailgating is becoming more and more common before and after concerts—especially country music concerts, go figure—and the trend is not coming to an end any time soon. That’s why I urge you to head to one of my top 10 favorite country music venues, if not for the country music (I’m not the typical fan), then for the tailgating that happens outside. If that doesn’t make you fall in love with the Country Music, I give up.
10. Copper Country Music Festival
Copper Country Music Festival is a Labor Day festival in Copper Mountain, CO. It represents everything American that we can take pride in—the loving sentiment of a rave with a lot more denim and plaid. Besides the live music, festival-goers can browse fine arts exhibition on site. The Long Players, John Batdorf and Savannah Jack have all headlined here.
9. Flood City Festival
Flood City Festival in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, (presented by AmeriServ) is a celebration of American roots music, held on the first weekend in August each year. The four stages, which have held artists like Samantha Fish, the Revivalists, Common Heart or Jimmy Adler, are set up to leave the smallest footprint possible but there is still plenty of space to party, and then there is always the tailgate area to spill over into. Enjoy all of your East Coast favorites, from bloomin’ onions to turkey legs and plenty of good ol’ pizza to carry you through the full three days of music, food and market-going.
8. Night in the Country
Night in the Country is an outdoor ode to the country and country music that takes place every year in Yerington, Nevada. The venue is all outdoors and, with its handmade stands and painted signs, looks straight out of a country western film directed by Michel Gondry. Not surprisingly, this is the kind of festival where artists like Thomas Rhett and Jake Owen headline.
Expect to see plenty of Coors Light, cutoff short-shorts and “redneck pools” around the tailgating grounds. You’ll know it’s a redneck pool if it’s a trailer lined with plastic and filled with water for a makeshift place to cool off. Camping is available and bringing a luxury rig is not completely out of the question. In fact, many of the trucks and trailers are decorated for the festival, as if they were floats in a parade.