The Browns Fan's Tailgating Guide

The Browns Fan's Tailgating Guide

by Peter Chakerian



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781598510454
Publisher: Gray & Company, Publishers
Publication date: 10/03/2008
Pages: 172
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Peter Chakerian is an award-winning writer, reporter and journalist. His byline has appeared in The Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal, Sun Newspapers, Cleveland Magazine, Northern Ohio Live, Scene Magazine, America Online,, and dozens of other publications throughout the Midwest. Chakerian is the Managing Editor of, a weekly online newsletter on arts, culture, economic development and all things cool in Cleveland. A lifelong Northeast Ohio resident and Browns fan, he lives in Bay Village, Ohio.

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Origin and History of Cleveland Browns Tailgating

A Tailgating Genesis

At the dawn of the Automotive Age, the word “tailgate” referred specifically to the hinged back section of a vehicle that could be removed or let up or down for the ease in loading or unloading cargo. Although its invention was a convenience for the driver and passengers, it’s become the foundation for the modern tailgating experience that has come to accompany concerts and sporting events.

When did the concept of “tailgating” start? Some say that the very first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton back in 1869 served as the very first tailgating experience. Back then, spectators traveled to the game by horse-drawn carriages, and spent the time prior to kickoff grilling sausages and burgers at the “tail end” of the horse.

Others suggest that the phenomenon began at Yale University in 1904. By all accounts, a locomotive made up of private railcars had transported a throng of fans to a Yale football game. When that train stopped at the station—a fair distance from the stadium, according to the story—the fans inside were starving. From there the idea was hatched by the fans to bring along appropriate provisions to be consumed before the start of the next game.

Still others claim that the cradle of tailgating is Green Bay, Wisconsin, and point to the year 1919, when the three-time Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers were first formed. Wisconsin farmers would back their pickup trucks around the edge of the open football field, open their tailgates to sit on and graze from a picnic basket of food as they watched “The Pack” play.

Freelance writer Chris Warner, who wrote A Tailgater’s Guide To SEC Football, produced a 2003 documentary on tailgating for The History Channel cable network’s Modern Marvels series. In it, Warner suggests any of the three origins could be considered valid, but that “[W]hile modern tailgating has only recently [within the last 30 years] become popular, the practice of enjoying both food and football has post-Civil War, 19th century roots.”

Origins of Cleveland Browns Tailgating

Depending on which Browns fans you talk to, you’re likely to get a number of different answers on when pregame Browns tailgating began. Some will tell you that 1964 Championship was a watershed moment for tailgating, but those people have difficulty pointing you to someone who actually experienced it first-hand during those days. Others point to the September 1970 Monday Night Football premiere of the Browns against the New York Jets as the beginning of the tailgating phenomenon here in Cleveland.

In both cases, the idea of “tailgating” was probably a far cry from the experience it is today. It was more like a brown-bag lunch or picnic basket with a little something extra before game time. Author, NPR commentator and longtime Cleveland Browns fan Scott Huler sums up what he calls “pre-tailgating times” on the North Coast (pre-late ’70s):

“Our tailgating consisted of making pastrami sandwiches with brown mustard on Kaiser rolls, putting them in baggies with napkins and little baggies of potato chips, and bringing them to the Stadium with us [and] also a thermos of coffee [or] a little flask of ‘tea,’ but again: no actual tailgating.” —Scott Huler, author and Cleveland expatriate living in Raleigh, N.C.

If you’re to believe most tailgaters, festivities before Browns games never really hit their stride until the 1980s—first with Sam Rutigliano’s “Kardiac Kids” success, and then with the AFC Championship teams helmed by the team’s beloved quarterback, Bernie Kosar. That’s when a few lakefront fan photos begin to emerge in local print media.

But do a little more digging and you’ll find that the spirit and atmosphere on the lakefront before the big game might owe a debt to an almost completely unrelated event on the same premises.

Long Before the Tailgate Party on the North Coast

Cleveland’s lakefront landscape has changed a great deal over the years, but one thing has remained constant: Cleveland football (both Rams and Browns) has taken place on the lakefront as long as most football fans can remember. Cleveland Municipal Stadium, which opened July 1, 1931, served as the home of Browns fans for generations until its demolition in November 1996. (Aside from football, the venue played host to everything from boxing matches and baseball to concert events.)

The area surrounding that F.R. Walker-designed Municipal Stadium has had a rather festive history, playing host to the grand Great Lakes Exposition in the mid-1930s as a centennial celebration of Cleveland’s incorporation. The exposition was a huge to-do—not to mention a welcome respite for Clevelanders enduring the Great Depression.

The exposition was a great place for a picnicking, shopping, live music and entertainment for millions of residents during its two-year lakefront tenure. Stretching as far south as Public Hall and east to where today’s Cleveland State University begins, the exposition featured jazz and dance concerts, parties, a floating stage and, at the north end/mouth of East 9th Street, a magnificent entryway that ushered in patrons.

The core “footprint” for the exposition’s fairgrounds reflects most of the Browns tailgating locations there are to choose from today, including the ground occupied by the Great Lakes Science Center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Burke Lakefront Airport and the remaining land on either side of today’s North and South Marginal Roads that makes up the now legendary Cleveland Municipal Parking (known as “Muni”) Lot.

From the Heyday to the Move . . . and Back

From the 1980s on, the Browns experienced a surge, popularity and heyday not seen since the ’64 Championship. And the fans set about to celebrate the return to form in the many key tailgating locations that Browns fans still have to choose from.

The Muni Lot; the Burke Lakefront Airport and adjacent Naval Lot; the northernmost Port Authority Lot (now called the “Yellow Lot”); parking lots to the west of the stadium off of West 3rd Street, near the Route 2 overpass (sometimes referred to as “The Pit”); and down into the East Bank of the Flats all have faithfully served as bastions for Cleveland tailgaters and continue to draw the most revelers. Other locations off of East 9th Street; the Justice Center and Lakeside Avenue Parking; Mall B/C by the Convention Center, and the Warehouse District tended to draw fans who were headed to a busy tailgate location, directly to the stadium or to brunching and barhopping for the game.

Sadly, many of these party parking locations went silent during the 1996 NFL season, after Browns owner Art Modell had moved the team to Baltimore. It would be a heartbreaking three years of disorder, resentment and, for some people, regular commutes to Buffalo, New York for Bills “Browns Day” games and to Columbus for Ohio State Buckeyes games before a tailgating Browns fan’s life would return to normal. Some tailgating fans were so lost without the Browns, they “couldn’t even stomach watching football,” choosing instead to drown themselves in home projects, golf and a variety of other sports to occupy their time.

When the Browns finally returned in 1999, all of these locations were beyond invigorated, filled with old and new generations of fans. Today, tailgating before a Browns game is more popular than ever. Tens of thousands of fans jam all of these downtown locations to tailgate before each home game. And not all of these fans have tickets for the game. Some of them spend the entire game in the lot, or head to their favorite local watering hole when the crowds start their approach to the stadium. Some of these tailgate locations are low-key and laid back; others are nothing less than a carnival midway.

[Excerpted from The Browns Fan's Tailgating Guide, © Peter Chakerian. All rights reserved. Gray & Company, Publishers.]

Table of Contents


Origin and History of Cleveland Browns Tailgating

A Tailgating Genesis

Origins of Cleveland Browns Tailgating

Today’s Browns Tailgating Lots


How to Tailgate

Preparing for the Tailgate

Away Games in the AFC North

Away Games Outside the AFC North

The Gear

Sounds From the Pound

Customs & Etiquette


Food & Drink

A “Full Cleveland” Shopping Experience

The Browns Tailgating Experience—at Home

A Few Recipes for Your C-Town Tailgate

The Usual Suspects

How to be a “Superfan”

Tailgate Rides

Creating Your Own Tailgate Ride

Browns Tailgating Stories

The Best of Times

The Worst of Times

Wild and Crazy Stories



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