Parking Lot Party: Tailgating 101

By: Toni Cunningham | September 25, 2013

Whether you’re a fan of college football or the NFL, we can all agree on one thing: pre-game tailgating is an essential part of either experience.

And while you could shotgun a beer, scarf down a hot dog and call it a day, tailgating is an art form and should be practiced in full, which means no cutting corners.

If, like me, you’ve got season tickets this year (*cough* GO GREEN! *cough*), tailgating is a fall weekend ritual. In case you’re new to tailgating, or just looking for some fresh ideas, take a look at my top five tips for pre-gaming:

  1. Arrive early. This should be a no-brainer, but we might have some first-timers among us. If you’re doing things right, you’re going to need time to set up a table (for the buffet, obviously), chairs, a grill, charcoal, cooler, and the kitchen sink. You’re going to want plenty of time to eat, drink and be merry. Then, after all that, you have to load everything back into the car before you head to the game. It’s important to allot time for all of these things, unless you want to rush. And you don’t want to rush.

  2. Prepare everything the night before. See point number 1. If you’re waking up at the crack of dawn to crack open a beer, the last thing you want to do is shape hamburger patties and slice up burger toppings at 6 a.m. Do all of this the prior evening, bag and label everything, pop it in the fridge, and you’ll be ready to toss it in the cooler and go.

  3. Now is not the time for boring. Why use a plain ol’ Koozie when you could have something like the Beer Pager Koozie cradling your cold one? Should you lose track of your beverage, it’ll save the day. Also, buy a pumpkin from your local farmers market, hollow it out and turn it into a festive pumpkin keg. Pour in your six-pack (of the pumpkin/Oktoberfest variety) and enjoy!

  4. Expand your culinary horizons. Yes, the tailgate staples include hot dogs, brats and hamburgers. But dang it, if you want to prepare a quiche for an early game or chicken kabobs to spice things up before an afternoon kick-off, no one is going to stop you. I’ll even encourage you! Check out our list of suggested items to prepare at the end of this article and impress your friends with your cooking knowhow.

  5. Dress in layers. This helpful hint stems from personal experience. The first game I went to this season: downpour, lightning and delayed game, while decked out in shorts, sans poncho. Second game? Tornado warning, delayed game, chilly, shorts. Third game? I wasn’t about to get fooled this time—pants, boots, team t-shirt. It was, of course, sunny and 80 degrees, and I got a farmers burn (this is like a farmers tan, but for excessively pale people). To avoid such a scenario, it’s simple: layer your clothing and be prepared for all seasons to occur in one day. Whether you’re attending a game now or later in the season when you’ll need five layers of Under Armour, the weather in Michigan is always unpredictable.

It goes without saying; make sure you have your ticket(s) before leaving the house. If you’re paranoid like me, you’ll check your pocket/purse about 99 times beforehand, and this won’t be an issue.

Now, about the aforementioned food—take a look at the following recipes to get inspired, and choose your favorite one to make for your next tailgate:

If you’re an extreme tailgater, check out the American Tailgater Association and the American Tailgating League for further tips, and a membership, if you’d like to take it that far.

Happy tailgating!