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Grooving in the ludic foodscape: Bridled revelry in collegiate tailgating

Throughout North America, the open air public feasting and drinking that surrounds an athletic event, most commonly football, is labeled “tailgating.” In this article, we explore how consumers infuse their place-creating activity with a well-modulated aura of revelry that energizes tailgating without jeopardizing either its immediate or long-term viability. To an appreciable degree, tailgating is about celebrating and preserving the communal bond enkindled in the primal hearth. We characterize tailgating as a “ludic foodscape” in an attempt to capture the kinetic, multisensory backdrop and atmosphere of playful consumer creativity against which the revelry of feasting and drinking unfolds. Our study is located at the intersection of inquiries into foodscapes, brandscapes, and landscapes. Among the interpretive themes emerging from our ethnographic analysis, we have implicated three in particular in the generation and modulation of the revelry that distinguishes tailgating from some of its more bacchanalian cousins: cuisine, carnivalesque, and canalization. These themes can be understood as social regulators that literally govern tailgating, endowing it with just the right amount of license to give it a festive edge without resulting in too disruptive or dysfunctional an atmosphere. We unpack the three cogs in this mechanism and analyze their relevance to the atmosphere pervading the sites of tailgating.