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Tailgating Tips

The Skinny:

Plan the perfect tailgate. Game day just isn’t the same without a pre-game feast to fill your belly and fire you up. Tailgating is serious business—it only looks simple when it’s been perfectly planned.

The How-To:

The key to a great tailgate is the prep. Having everything ready before the big game saves time and frustration. Cover your bases and plan for the entire tailgating experience.

Planning the Event

When you’ve got the urge to tailgate, give yourself enough time to think of everything you’ll need.

  • Food. Make sure the food covers the needs of your guests. While many enjoy a great brat, round out the menu with fruits and veggies. Beer and tailgates go hand in hand, but have other options, especially during warmer weather. If possible, make it a potluck to avoid running out of food and share in the meal preparation.
  • Utensils. Bringing enough plates and cups is one thing, but also bring all the necessary tools to prepare the food: knives, cutting boards, etc. Avoid excess utensils by preparing food that’s easy to handle.
  • Furniture. No one wants to sit on a cooler. Chairs and tables are a must. Portable tents are great for adding extra weather protection.

Gathering Your Materials

Remember that you’ll be solely responsible for all the materials you need. When you pack smart, setup and cleanup are a breeze.

  • Make it portable. Assemble materials in containers that are easy to carry. Smart tailgaters gather items in containers like toolboxes or storage bins. Condiments and utensils can be stored in empty six-pack containers. Coolers are important. Use at least two—one for food, one for drinks.
  • Make it disposable. Use zipper storage bags and aluminum pans whenever possible. Cleanup is easier when it’s disposable.
  • Make it essential. Bring these items to every tailgate: first aid kit, water (for drinking and cleaning), box of trash bags, paper towels/napkins, bottle/can opener and kitchen knife.

Heading to the Venue

Getting a good spot to set up is key. A bad location can sour the mood.

  • Get there early. To avoid traffic and score the best possible space, arrive at the venue at least four hours before game time. That way, you’ll have enough time to set up, prepare the food, have fun and clean up. Getting stuck in traffic and finding a parking spot eats up valuable tailgate time.
  • Be easy to find. If your party isn’t traveling together, have some sort of highly visible item that will make you easy to find. Balloons, tents and other large party props work well.
  • Know the rules. Check up on what’s allowed at the venue. Are all kinds of grills allowed? Is alcohol permitted? Show some love and respect the house (aka, field) rules.

Handling Food and Drinks

Food safety is important, especially outside.

  • Keep it cold. Have a cold food cooler. Instead of using bags of ice, use frozen water bottles. Instead of making a mess in the cooler, you’ll have perfectly chilled drinks.
  • Keep it hot. When food needs to be kept warm, turn a cooler into a hotbox. Warm a brick in the oven, wrap it in foil and place in cooler lined with wet towels. This will keep your food warm for 2-3 hours.
  • Keep it short. Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. If it’s really hot outside, (over 90 degrees) don’t let it sit out for more than an hour.

Cleaning Up/After the Game

When it’s time to get to your seats, complete cleanup is a must.

  • Beat the heat. Before leaving the tailgate site, make sure all heat sources are off/extinguished. Use water to douse any hot coals and dispose.
  • Take it all. Unless otherwise noted, plan to pack up all your stuff, including the trash. Leave your space looking better than when you arrived.
  • Wait it out. Plan to have some munchies or activities after the game so you can hang out and leave when it’s not so crazy.

As you enjoy your tailgate, remember to be courteous to your neighbors. Keep an eye out on the placement of your grill to avoid smoking out those around you. Do good things and have it done to you in return. Until next time, Enthusiasts.

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