Ask someone from Ohio what the four seasons are, and they might reply earnestly, “Winter, Spring, Summer, and Football Season.”
Fall has a different meaning for football fans in Ohio. While others look forward to the changing colors, falling leaves, chilly nights, apple-picking, pumpkin patches and hayrides, football fans are firing up their grills, putting a new coat of paint on that trailer and getting prepped to tailgate for their teams.
A long and rich history of football in Ohio has made the game more than just a sport to fans at all levels, from youth leagues to the pros. It’s a deeply-rooted tradition that spans generations thanks to legends like Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Woody Hayes, Archie Griffin and so many more. This tradition of excellence and a widespread passion for the game is a reason Canton, Ohio, is home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Football is a way of life in Ohio, especially for Buckeyes, Bengals and Browns fans.
“Growing up, tailgating was just a routine part of my family’s life. I didn’t realize until I got a little older that it’s not something everybody does,” joked Tadas Taraskevicius, a lifelong tailgater of Cleveland Browns games. “Waking up early on a chilly fall morning to throw on your team’s colors, grill food and enjoy some spirits with friends just adds a special sort of magic to the football experience. It’s the difference between die-hard fans and regular fans. I couldn’t imagine my life without tailgating.”
For Adam Alfonso, a Cincinnati Bengals and Ohio State Buckeyes fan, tailgating is a full-weekend activity for his family throughout the fall.
“I tailgate for Buckeyes and Bengals games. I’ve been tailgating at Bengals games with my Dad and my uncles since I was a kid, but once I started going to Ohio State, my Dad took it up another level and started hauling the RV to Columbus. We really bond as a father and son. It can be a lot of work putting on a tailgate, but it’s worth it.”
You don’t want to drop the ball… so check out this advice from veteran tailgaters Adam and Tadas to make your tailgate a great success!
Best places to tailgate:
Buckeyes – Lane Avenue west of High Street becomes the center of Columbus on Ohio State Football game days.
Browns – City of Cleveland Municipal Parking Lot, or the Muni Lot, is where you’ll find the biggest and baddest tailgates before Browns games.
Bengals – Just south of Paul Brown Stadium in Lot E is where you’ll find extravagant tailgates like the aforementioned Bengal Trailer.
- Get inventive. Space is limited and cleanup is tedious enough. Maximize your utility by repurposing items. For example, line an empty case of beer with a bag, add the drinks back in and cover with ice to turn your beer case into a fully-functional cooler. Turn the bungee cord from your tent or tarp into a paper towel dispenser by looping it through the roll and hanging the hooks on something.
“A major key to tailgating is making the pre-tailgate and post-tailgate experience as simple as possible. Nobody wants to spend all day setting up or taking down the tailgate because the actual party is what it’s all about,” said Alfonso. “An easy way to keep it simple is to bring less and reuse—we use empty six-packs as condiment caddies.”
- Bring the tunes. Curate a playlist that will pump up your tailgate with artists from, or singing about, your team’s city or school. The Bengals Growl, Cleveland Rocks and Hang on Sloopy are must-haves depending on your squad.
- Give it a name. Whether you’ve got an RV, car, trailer or truck, make your tailgate personal by giving it a unique name. Create social media accounts for your group, like the Bengal Trailer and Browns Bunch, and your tailgate will grow in both size and fun.
- Combine forces. If you’ve got a designated tailgating spot, this is especially important. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your neighbors, so it’s best if you get to know them. You’ve already got a lot in common, so offer to share some food, throw around the pigskin and make new friends to maximize the fun.
“We offered some extra food to the group next to us a few years back, and it couldn’t have gone better. We hit it off and everybody was friends by the end of the day,” said Taraskevicius. “I swear our tailgates have been twice as fun since then.”