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Life without tailgating: Washington football fans adjust to changes during the pandemic

Until now, the popular "HailBBQ" tailgate had been happening at Washington games since 1999.

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — Some of the Washington Football Team’s most passionate fans are still adjusting to life without tailgating in the time of coronavirus. 

The FedEx Field parking lot will remain empty Sunday during the Battle of the Beltway, when the Washington Football Team takes on the Baltimore Ravens in Landover.

Tailgating activities have come to a halt at the stadium in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, the popular “HailBBQ” tailgate has been put on hold as well.

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Executive Chef Ted Abela, or “Tailgate Ted” as he is known to Washington fans, helped found the HailBBQ tailgate in 1999.

"I've missed one home game in 21 years," he said.

In its heyday, Abela said the tailgate would routinely feed over 600 passionate fans at its events.

Now, Abela said he is just hopeful they will be able to hold a tailgate at any point this season.

"Everyone understands [the decision], but we're frustrated,” Abela said. “This entire year has been one of frustration and when they announced that fans couldn't be in the stands, it honestly felt like an uppercut after a year of body blows."

Tailgate Ted said he misses the camaraderie between he and his fellow tailgaters on game day. It’s a group that has been known to take up numerous charitable endeavors over the years.

Now, Abela said the big question is how HailBBQ will continue to do the same work this season.

"We have a winter coat drive, a blanket drive where we pass stuff out to the homeless and that's the stuff where I'm trying to figure out how we can still do that in this COVID time,” he said.

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While HailBBQ’s tailgates have been put on hold at FedEx Field, some of its members have still been able to have a good time elsewhere around the National Football League where fans are allowed in the stands.

Abela said some Washington tailgaters even traveled to Cleveland this past week to experience football there.

"We're making plans to potentially go out to Dallas this Thanksgiving, maybe out to Pittsburgh since they could potentially allow fans by the time [the game] happens,” he said. “But we want the team to know that we're behind them even though we're not physically behind them in the stands."

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