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Tips for the Tailgating Novice

Last season was the first time I've had season tickets since I was in school. It was also the first time I had to really put a tailgate together. I vividly recall pulling up to the drop-off point for the first game, opening the hatch to the 4Runner and items falling out like a waterfall. We improved a bit with each game, and by the time Florida came to town, we could load, unload and reload while holding a beverage and shouting "WAR EAGLE" all at once. Here is my short list of things that kept me sane and my guests entertained.

  • Know exactly who is going to be in your tent. Knowing your crowd will allow you to delegate who brings what. It also gives you an idea of how many people to plan for and who might drop in to say "hello." I also track birthdays, anniversaries, food allergies and drink preferences.
  • Make sure that everything you plan to bring actually fits in your vehicle beforehand and that you are able to transport it easily from the vehicle to the tailgate site. Give a little extra thought to how it everything has to be broken down at the end of the evening and factor in your possible exhaustion level.
  • Organize what you want to have at the tailgate. I use clear plastic bins so I can see exactly what's inside and if I need to restock anything. I make laminated lists for each bin of the items that go in the bin and tape it to the inside of the lid. This is a tremendous help when repacking at the end of the night.
  • It goes without saying, but have a plenty of water and/or sports drinks on hand. The first few games are always insanely hot and it is so easy to get dehydrated, especially with all the alcohol that is likely to be consumed.
  • A tailgate in the South requires food. Plan out the day and determine the best times to eat based on when people are arriving and when people will head to the stadium for kickoff. If the thought of preparing food for eleventy people seems daunting, consider catering/delivery options. Just make sure it's good
  • Have ice brought in throughout the day. Our group has a magnificent YETI, but we also have a collection of smaller coolers that require ice refills.
  • Be green. We used glass rocks glasses for adult beverages in the tent last year. I realize this isn’t a feasible option for everyone, but you could consider asking people to bring a Tervis or a trusty stadium cup instead of using the traditional disposable Solo cup.
  • Relax. I cannot tell you how many times my very dear friends had to remind me that this was not a five-star affair and that I didn’t have to have a specialty cocktail for every home game -- we did, however, have a fully stocked bourbon bar. I had a lot of preconceived ideas about how things were supposed to go and the first few games, I was frustrated, disappointed or just plain mad. Just because it is on Pinterest doesn’t mean it has to happen at your tailgate! I realized the things I fretted over didn’t matter and people were just happy to have a place to congregate.

If you're a first-timer on the tailgating scene, you might find yourself overwhelmed if you don't plan ahead. Hope this helps you prepare for the upcoming season. War Eagle!