The truth about tailgating: It’s a picnic in a parking lot. But when we talk tailgating for college football games, we mean a very special kind of picnic. We mean family and friends and football and food, and back-to-school season for those of us who aren’t going back to school anymore. We mean school spirit and a sense of being on the edge of something. Our team might win today. Maybe not. But whatever the outcome, we’ll be among friends. On game-day Saturdays, where the real world ends and the parking lot begins, we’ll find stories and snacks, mascots and marching bands, and memories of life in a college town. Summer’s ending, but now we’ve got fall.
Food and football give us a reason to gather. But the essence of tailgating is something deeper.
Taylor Mathis, food photographer and the blogger behind Taylor Takes a Taste, attended 35 football tailgates in 16 states between 2010 and 2012, including nine games in North Carolina. With his newfound knowledge, he wrote the (cook)book on tailgating in the South.
Just because a city has a university doesn’t mean it’s a college town. A college town is different. The relationship is closer. This fall, see if you can spot the intersection between campus and community in these college towns — three that have long defined the term in North Carolina, and three you might not expect.