Outdoor Connection

Meet Joe Cahn, the Commissioner of Tailgating

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Joe Cahn - Commissioner of Tailgating
Commissioner of Tailgating Joe talks to us about his passion for tailgating and how it's changed through the years.

For many people, tailgating is a great way to start and end any football game. But for Joe Cahn, tailgating is more than just another get-together or celebration. Tailgating is a fulltime job that he does with such passion and gusto ever since he sold the New Orleans School of Cooking - which he established back in 1980 - in 1995 and started going around the country attending different tailgating events the year after.

We caught up with Joe Cahn to learn more about tailgating and his passion for it.

What prompted you to make tailgating a serious hobby?

Being the Commissioner of Tailgating is not a hobby. It's a full-time job. But job doesn't exactly describe it because it's a work of passion. Being at a tailgate is the happiest place [you could be].

Can you tell us all about your first tailgating experience?

My first experience at tailgating was while attending college at LSU back in the 60's. When I began my journey as the Commissioner of Tailgating in 1996, the first tailgate I attended was in Viking County, Minnesota. That was their first tailgate since they (the team) moved from Bloomington to the Metrodome.

What was one of the most unforgettable experiences you had while tailgating?

Each one of the over 800 games I've tailgated in during my 15-year tailgating journey has been unforgettable. Perhaps my favorite was honeymooning at the Grove at Ole' Miss. Now, that was what I'd call a wedding reception.

Based on your travels, are tailgating events the same in every part of the country? If not, what are the differences?

Tailgating is basically celebrated the same way around the country. Tailgating is still the reception before the banquet, and the last great American neighborhood, with a few differences. During the start of the year, there's less grilling done by tailgaters. As the temperature cools, the grills are lit.

Tailgating food also differs depending on the region. For example, there may be lobster and chowder eaten during tailgating events in Maine. In the Midwest, meat is the featured item on their tailgating menu. In the West, like San Diego, it's Mexican. That's because each region has it's own food cultures and styles.

Rules and regulations also differ. Some stadiums allow no open flame, which obviously changes the menu. Before going, know the rules of your stadium's tailgating.

How has the tailgating culture changed over the years?

There's more people using high tech and sophisticated cooking equipment. Once, tailgating food only meant hot dogs, hamburgers and BBQ chicken. Now, you can cook in the parking lot the same thing you cook at home. Pop-up tents allow you to tailgate in any type of weather. Fold up grills make it possible to cook anything anywhere without needing a pickup.

Which has the better atmosphere, college or pro?

Both. Don't leave out the high school. It's an up and coming place to tailgate.

When you are not tailgating, what do you do?

I practice eating, partying, and schmoozing. But to tell you the truth, tailgating is now a year-round event. That's because every sport has its own tailgating venue. It's the last great American neighborhood, whether it's a NASCAR tailgate or a tailgating event in one of Jimmy Buffet's concerts. Tailgating is there because people want to socialize in the parking lot.

What is your advice for people who want to start tailgating but have never been to a tailgating party?

Just go! You don't need an invitation. Get there early. Walk around. Meet and greet the people. Have fun. Don't forget to observe what other people are doing. Take the best, incorporate your own ideas, and use it the following week.

If I can only attend one tailgating event a year, which one should I go to and why?

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that it may incriminate me. It's like asking me "which of your children do you love the most?" Ask a friend so that you can make it a trip that you can share, whether it's a tailgating event in a football game, NASCAR, a Jimmy Buffet concert or Steeplechase.

You spend so much time tailgating. Do you ever get to watch a game?

What game? Is there a game after a tailgate? Who knew? What a great idea!

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