According to the American Tailgating Association, the first tailgate originated at the very first football game between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869. Fans traveled by carriage grilling sausages and hamburgers at the “tail end” of the horse.
Here we take an in-depth look at the tailgating traditions peculiar to our local high schools, each displaying its own degree of seriousness and style!
Take for example, Bishop Chatard, whose football team, the Trojans, have won nine state championships. One would not be surprised to learn that at this particular school, tailgating represents True Tradition.
“What is so unique about Chatard is that many of the families with kids who attend, have parents who also went there. So, it is very much a tradition,” says Lisa Lubbers, the Booster Club secretary, whose husband attended Chatard, as will their four children. A group of dedicated dads have gotten together and painted a Trojan horse design on an old U-Haul truck. This truck contains a grill, tools, tables and even an awning. Since Chatard does not have a home football field, the team plays in Broad Ripple. And yes, these dads do start setting up early in the day for the ultimate tailgating experience.
At each home game, a corporate sponsor provides the main dish, such as grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, while everyone else brings a side dish to share. Each year, the booster club sponsors one night where the food is catered in and the picnic is prime. Over 500 meals are served!
This year, “The Trojan Tailgate 08” took place on Sept. 12th, when Chatard played Cathedral for the biggest rivalry of the year. The game was very close with Cathedral winning 15-14 over Chatard. The food was supplied by Jugs Catering, and there was live music by Reasonable Doubt. Both schools showed support for their teams by tailgating in style.
Lubbers sums up the tailgating experience at Chatard: “Football has always been a great tradition at Bishop Chatard. Pre-game tailgating is a community-building event for our school, where all families and alums, not just football families, gather to enjoy catching up with each other.” As a matter of fact, her eldest son commented that after graduating from IU, he is looking forward to coming back to Indy someday and have his kids also attend Bishop Chatard High School.
LAWRENCE CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL
For Lawrence Central, home of the Bears, tailgating is growing and spreading as it reflects the school’s new theme: “Catch the Spirit.” On the first day of school, LC staff wore T-shirts with the slogan in order to promote a positive atmosphere.
“We are trying to reconstitute the school spirit,” says Beth Meguschar, assistant principal of Lawrence Central, who is in charge of this new themed operation. This contagious slogan has already spread to the parking lot among students and alumni.
On Sept. 5th, the athletic department sponsored the Tailgate Extravaganza, when LC took on Perry Meridian, winning 49-0. This was probably the biggest bash ever held at LC, as it celebrated the grand reopening of the LC Bears Football Field with all-new new turf.
“It is the most support that LC has seen in at least ten years,” says Margaret Powell, a first grade teacher at Amy Beverland. Activities consisted of live music, dance contests, games, face and body painting, spirit competition dunk tank and “wild west” themed attire among the tailgaters. Each vehicle was charged $5, with proceeds going toward the LC Best Buddies Club, which is a group of students who assist children with intellectual disabilities.
With regards to this special tailgating event, Gerry Dick, host of Inside INdiana Business, said, “In a word- Awesome! It is great to see school spirit come back to Lawrence Central. Tonight is the start of something special.”
This year, there will be five home games each with a different club sponsor. Instead of having a potluck style, the food is predetermined and costs $2 for a plate of food (i.e. hot dog, chips, drink, cookie…) Each game will have some type of game for kids to enjoy. For example, one game will have a piñata while another will have a corn hole tournament. The athletic department has refurbished an old truck to help carry the cargo and the spirit.
Although two years ago Hamilton Southeastern High School (HSE) split its student population with the new Fishers High School, HSE fans are reorganizing their energy and spirit. Tailgating represents a uniting and welcoming atmosphere.
Up until now, a handful of students calling themselves “The Blue Crew” initiated tailgating by grilling out, painting their bodies, throwing the football around and playing corn toss with each other. This year, for the home games, the Touchdown Club (booster club) has a whole new game plan. Club members will grill out hot dogs and hamburgers, while those wishing to participate in the tailgate will bring side dishes to share. This club also has plans to bring an RV to the games.
“We are starting a tradition to support our school and community,” said Touchdown Club member Kristi Petruzzi. “People have been tailgating in the past, but we want to make it even more fun. We want it to be for everyone, not just for the families of football players.”
This tailgating extravaganza will take place by the Athletic Entrance located behind the school on the west side. The Touchdown Club also is organizing games for the younger kids, such as corn hole and mudsock toss.
The “mudsock toss” is symbolic to the traveling Mudsock Trophy that has been exchanged between HSE and Fishers ever since the school corporation split into two high schools. Whichever school wins the most initial varsity games (of any sport) for the entire year will take control of the trophy that is shaped like a sock. It’s a tradition similar to the “Old Oaken Bucket” exchange between IU and Purdue.
The Hamilton Southeastern Royals played the Fishers Tigers for their first home game on Aug. 29th as they celebrated their first game on the new Football Field Turf. “It was probably the greatest game our school has ever had,” said Cody McCammack, a junior at HSE. The HSE Royals won 24-7. Coincidentally, during half time, HSE was awarded the bronze traveling Mudsock Trophy as an extension from last year’s success. The trophy is always awarded during the first football game of the season.
For Lawrence North High School, the tailgating operation is carefree and student-driven. Although tailgating is not officially organized, many students come together as Wildcat fans to support their team throughout the season by grilling out, throwing a football and goofing off with their friends before the game.
However, there is one game in particular that represents a much different affair: Homecoming. “This is the biggest activity, with food tents, games for all ages, an outside caterer and live music,” says Jim Zeller, LN’s assistant athletic director.
The big night for Lawrence North is October 3rd at Bell Stadium. In past years, the school has had something really exciting for kids. One year, they had an inflatable moonwalk. This year, they are attempting to secure an army climbing wall.
The tailgate starts at 4 p.m. between the football field and the new natatorium. In addition to food, rides and games, there will be a raffle by the National Guard. The Homecoming game will be against Terre Haute North, with the kickoff at 7 p.m.
The first home game for Lawrence North was Sept. 12th. This was the first time the Wildcats played on their brand new turf. Since it rained most of the day, tailgating in the parking lot was not a popular idea.
“Usually the tailgaters are great, well controlled and well behaved,” says David Rider, a Security Guard for Lawrence North High School. “They normally play football, have their canopies up and their grills out. But tonight, the rain is probably holding them back.”
Another reason for fewer tailgaters might have been the excitement of playing on the new turf for the very first time. Spectators seemed to want to congregate on the new field instead of hanging out in the parking lot. Nothing could stop the momentum of the Wildcats, as Lawrence North won 35-21 over North Central.
Although these local schools may tailgate with different style and varying levels of intensity, they all share some common goals. At each school, tailgating gives fans an excuse to picnic in the parking lot, mingle with people from their community, get psyched for the game and promote school spirit.