Autumn is officially upon us. With autumn comes football, and with football comes many fans’ favorite pre-game celebration: tailgating. This wholly American tradition is all about good food, good fun, and plenty of team pride. It’s the sports lover’s chance to socialize and get hyped before the big game.
But great tailgate parties don’t just happen on their own. You have to put in the effort if you want to create a rewarding and memorable experience. Some of it has to do with planning, and even more of it has to do with attitude.
We’ve put together seven tips that will help you ensure your tailgating experience is extraordinary. Follow these guidelines, and your game day party is sure to be a hit.
There’s nothing worse than arriving outside the stadium or your designated party spot, beginning to unpack the car and set up your equipment, and realizing you forgot something. Maybe it’s something really important–like the grill–or maybe it’s your favorite can koozie with your team’s logo on it.
It doesn’t take that much time or effort to put together a list of everything you need to bring, and it will make packing quicker and easier as well as ensuring you don’t forget anything. You can check out these sample checklists for inspiration, but you should compile your own custom list to suit your individual needs and desires.
If you show up to the party with nothing but raw hamburger and bratwurst, you’re going to be spending a lot of time standing over the grill. That’s all well and good if you just really love to cook, but chances are good that you may want to walk about and check out the setups of your fellow fans.
For this reason, you should try to cook most of your food at home and bring it to the tailgate. Naturally you will need to keep it warm, so consider buying a few Sterno cans, or else reheat the food on the grill under a low flame.
And speaking of the food, you really shouldn’t settle for ordinary fare. Hot dogs may be a classic cookout staple, but you should try to up the ante by preparing an original dish. If you have a secret recipe for pulled pork, chicken wings or potato salad, break it out. Even better, prepare extra and encourage others to try your food. Be adventurous and look for other tailgaters who are offering to let you taste-test their own recipes. In short, put in the extra effort to cook and eat some truly delicious food that you don’t have any old day. Your taste buds will thank you.
Tailgating may have originated with people eating out of the backs of their trucks, but the ritual has come a long way over the years. For hardcore tailgaters, truck beds have been replaced by tables and tents. If you want to give yourself a great experience, you should follow their lead.
Comfortable seating is a must. Televisions, sound systems and festive lighting are icing on the cake. Do everything you can to make your space cozy and inviting, and also try to get interesting with your decorations. (For example, how about a unique, homemade centerpiece for your table?) Finally, don’t forget that everything should be in your team colors.
Everyone loves music, so why wouldn’t you want to have some killer jams playing while you eat, drink and socialize? Bring your best audio equipment, whether it is a complete sound system, a boombox, a Bluetooth speaker and an iPod, or your laptop. Be sure to create the playlist beforehand. Classic rock and country are the most iconic tailgating genres, but feel free to mix it up by including whatever you like. Are you into hip hop? Add it to the list. 80’s pop? Go for it. Electronica? Why not! Whatever gets you pumped up deserves a spot on your playlist. If you need ideas, try running an internet search for “tailgating playlists.” Here is a website that lists 127 playlists submitted with a “tailgating” tag.
Most people tailgate with their family and friends, and that’s great. Who else would you rather celebrate with than the people who are closest to you? But that shouldn’t be an excuse to stay in your bubble. After all, you will be surrounded by many other people who are just as passionate as you are about the game and their team. So why not make to effort to talk to them?
Go out of your way to strike up a conversation with other fans. Talk about the state of the team this season and make predictions about the game. Invite them to come over and try your homemade barbecue sauce and enjoy your color-coordinated furnishings. You might be surprised how much you enjoy interacting with strangers–maybe even fans of the other team–and you just might make a few friends in the process.
This tip is the most difficult to pull off, but it will be the most rewarding if you can manage it. Try to think outside of the box. Maybe it’s as simple as surprising all of your friends with their favorite beverages. That’s a good start, but try to go bigger. Here’s an idea: why not set up a table with generous helpings of your prized dish and invite everyone to try it–while it lasts! Or you could go around asking people to cook up their best burger, and then designate judges to determine whose tastes the best. Or how about using your sweet tailgating playlist to start an impromptu dance competition.
The idea is to do something out of the ordinary that will get people excited. It will be a real treat to go above and beyond standard tailgating fare, and you’ll create a memory you will look back on fondly for years to come.
Do you have essential tailgating tips we failed to cover in this article? Feel free to post them in the comments. Also share with us your favorite tailgating experiences and memories.
Until next time, happy partying, and here’s to the game!