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10 Tips for Hosting the Perfect Tailgate Party

By Susannah Wollman

The history behind tailgate parties

So you think the all-American tradition of celebrating the game in the parking lot is a modern one? Well, you’re partly right. The modern tailgate party probably started with college football. The very first college football game was in 1869 when teams from Rutgers and Princeton met to battle it out at College Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey. But a few years earlier, America’s love of competition brought together conflict and social interaction led to the party-to-end-all-parties in a fully mobile, vehicle-based arena.

in 1861, the Battle of Bull Run was fought in America’s Civil War. Union supporters brought their enthusiasm to the battlefield with baskets of food and cheering shouts of  “Go Big Blue!” Of course, war is not a spectator sport, but again in 1866 Charles Goodnight, a Texas rancher bon vivant transformed a U.S Army Studebaker wagon into the very first chuckwagon. It was compact, simple, and long-standing. Naturally, when automobiles came on the scene, football spawned pre-game parties on the tailgates of the popular station wagons Americans preferred post-World War II. By the 1980s, tailgating burgeoned into communities of party-goers who got more and more elaborate with their parking spots at football games.


Tips for a history-making tailgate party

  1. Location, location, location!
    The earlier you get to the parking lot, the better your spot for being immersed in the game and all its festivities. Some fans set up early on the morning of the game and party all day long, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner with plenty of snacks throughout the day. Now, that’s what I call team spirit!
  2. Truck, SUV, motorhome, or tent?
    Things in the tailgating community have gotten pretty competitive right along with the game itself. Some set-ups are so elaborate, people spend the entire time tailgating, not even setting a foot inside the stadium. Whatever your personal venue, fly a flag or a helium balloon so your friends can find you. Don’t forget to theme your party around your team’s colors!
  3. Prepare for your day (and evening)
    Packing up for your tailgating party is key to making your time successful and lots of fun. So the first thing you should do is make a list.
  4. A toolbox in your car makes a handy place to keep tools like barbecue implements, your first-aid kit, and just about anything.
  5. Two ways to use a cooler: to keep things cool (obviously) and as a warming oven with hot bricks and aluminum foil. Bottles of frozen water help keep things cold and also are a great way to have a cool drink as it melts throughout the day.
  6. If you plan to stay all day, be sure you bring a frying pan or griddle to cook up bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns for breakfast burritos. As an alternative, bacon or sausage could be wrapped in a pancake for another hand-held breakfast.
  7. Plastic cups set in a drink holder make a handy place for plastic knives, forks, and spoons or filled with crudites. Drink holders come in handy for holding condiments, too. Glue magnets to koozies to temporarily stick them to your car so you can work with both hands.
  8. A case of your favorite drinks can double as a cooler with a little bit of ingenuity. Take the drinks out and line the case with 2 trash bags. put the drinks back in and add ice. When the drinks are gone, toss the whole thing in the trash!
  9. Serve chili in bread bowls. Less mess to clean up and you can even eat the bowls!
  10. Most of all, have fun and be responsible. Clean up before you leave and make sure you thank all those who contributed with food, drinks, or help throughout the day.


BONUS: The Right Way to Pack a Cooler