If you've ever attended a tailgating party—especially in the South—then you know that it is not just any old function. Right? It's an institution my friends! And sadly if you've never hung out in the parking lot, in the shade of your favorite stadium, next to a grill, with your closest friends—well then, you are really missing out on something pretty special. It's not about a fired up grill and a cooler full of beer or coke, it's a lifestyle!
Here are a few tips to remember when planning your own tailgating party:
Prep & Packing
Plan to arrive four hours before the game starts. Then eat two hours before the game so you have plenty of time to set up and clean up. Pre-pack a toolbox or set of plastic drawers with tailgate essentials.
- Bottle openers
- Can opener
- Wooden skewers
- Basting brush
- Mini flashlight
- Trash bags
- Paper towels
- Wet wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Plastic zip bags
- Masking tape
- Your favorite condiments, spices and seasonings
I found this really great graphic on Pinterest. It's pretty self-explanatory, how can you go wrong???
Things To-Do The Night Before Game-Day
- Freeze water bottles to use in place of ice in coolers so you have cold water to drink after they melt.
- Label your coolers so guests can find drinks easily.
- Slice and pack up burger toppings in advance.
- Shape and pack up burger patties between sheets of wax paper.
- Skewer and marinate kebabs.
- Fill a six pack holder with your favorite hot sauces and other condiments for easy reach by your guests.
- Pack a mini first-aid kit into an old Altoids tin. You never know what will happen while tailgating, it's better to be prepared.
- Pack the essentials: Kingsford charcoal, extra 1-lb. tank LP gas for grill, tongs, an extra plastic bin for dirty dishes, jumper cables - yes, an empty metal bucket for still hot coals, and anything else you find necessary for a successful tailgating party.
Setting Up Your Tailgating Headquarters
- Float a big helium balloon on a long string from your car or tent, so friends can find you.
- Consider wind direction when you position your grill.
- When setting up your tent make sure to anchor it well, the wind can easily pick it up.
- Set up an empty laundry detergent dispenser as a hand-washing station.
- Either bring enough chairs for your guests and set them up now, anchoring them as well. It's also perfectly fine to request in your invitations that guests bring their own chairs.
- Bring a pre-packed set of drawers so everything is handy and organized while you’re cooking and position it with in hands reach of your grilling station. It's a good idea to also label the drawers so you AND your guests know where to find the essentials.
- I'm adding this even though this is not something we would ever use at a tailgating party. Convert the back of your car into a fully-stocked bar with a set of shelves.
- Set up an hors d'oeuvre and condiment bar for noshing while the main event is cooking.
- In colder months, set up a baked potato, chili or soup bar, yum! Serve in bread bowls and there is less refuse to clean up.
- Set up your toppings bar for hamburgers, hot dogs, whatever you are serving. Give your guests lots of options.
Don't Forget Those Final Touches
- Make your own football field tablecloth or buy them at Party City. They are really inexpensive.
- Turn a couple of empty cleaned cans into football utensil holders....how cute!
- Make a sheet cake or cupcakes and ice it/them in your schools colors, or a football field with little football players. Your guests will be pleasantly surprised at your creativity! Here's a good website for color formulations for your teams colors.
- Deck out your cooler in school spirit.
- Make a great banner declaring your team the best!
- Bring along fun accessories for your friends. Stick on tattoos, necklaces, glasses, bandannas, face paint and pennants for the big game!
Last, but definitely not least, relax, enjoy the day and make nice with your neighboring tailgaters! You'll be glad you did! And may your team win!