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Tailgating: 10 Tips to Prepare for Game Day

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Kids are getting ready to head back to school, the weather is getting ready to turn to cooler temps, and the football teams are getting ready to hit the fields. That's right, football season is right around the corner which means that weekends will be full of family, friends, food, football, and fun.

What pairs perfectly with football? Tailgating, of course. When done right, tailgating is a great way to spend time with family members and friends, enjoy classic crowd-pleasing foods, play fun games, and get ready to cheer on your favorite team.

Michigan State Tailgate

10 Tips for a Successful Tailgate

Instead of throwing a bunch of items into the trunk of your car, be sure to give your tailgating plan some thought in order to ensure that everyone has a great time during your tailgate before the big game. As an alumni of Michigan State University and a huge sports fan in general, I've attended countless tailgates and have learned along the way what works and what doesn't.

1. Plan Ahead

Lists are always helpful when preparing for a tailgate. There can be quite a few items to consider and the last thing that you want to do is forget something when you're far away from home and stuck in a parking lot. Food, grill, utensils, plates, napkins, coolers, ice, chairs, crock pots, tents, decor ... the list can go on and on. Your list should include all of the items that are important for your tailgate's success. Then, the night before you leave, make sure you go through your list and make sure that you have everything before hitting the road early the next morning.

2. Cook Ahead

When it comes to tailgating, the food is super important. You want to make sure that your family members and friends are well-fed during your party. The foods served at tailgate can run the gamut but typically, people usually stick with the crowd-pleasers: hot dogs, hamburgers, chili, and chicken wings. A day or two before the game, make sure that you have enough burger patties, buns, utensils, plates, and napkins. You'll also want to pack the condiments for the condiment lovers out there. If you're serving onions, tomatoes, and lettuce with your main dishes, wash/chop/slice them ahead of time and pack them in containers/bags. You can also prepare your hamburger patties ahead of time. The last thing that you want to do is be spending all of time in your tailgate "kitchen" while everyone else is having fun. The more prep you do ahead of time, the more you can relax and enjoy your tailgate.

3. Designate Responsibilities

Tailgates should be easy. Who needs stress when you're getting ready to cheer on your favorite team? Instead of trying to prepare all of the food, bring all of the chairs, pack all of the utensils, bring all of the games, and squeeze the grill onto your to do list, you should designate responsibilities. Make a list of everything that needs to be done a few days before the morning of the tailgate. Then, start assigning responsibilities to the family members and friends who will be attending your tailgate. That way, when people show up to the tailgate, the party will be one big collaboration.

4. Dress Appropriately

What are your team's colors? The last thing that you want to do is show up to the game wearing the opponent's colors. If the weather is warm, throw on your team shirt and some cute shorts, jeans, or a maxi skirt. If you're in the northern region, your game days will most likely be on the colder side, especially as we head into October and November. If that's the case, bring your gloves, hats, and scarves. You can find these accessories in you team's colors. That way, even when you're bundled up, you can still show your support. There's a lot of standing and sitting around during a tailgate. Be sure to dress according to the weather so that you aren't miserable before the big game.

5. Arrive Early

So, you've done all of the prep work, you're wearing your team's colors, and the food is ready. You get to the tailgating site and there are no spots available. What a bummer! Always remembers, tailgating spots usually fill up quickly because people are excited about the big game. Instead of waiting in huge, long traffic lines or running into the issue of not having a spot for your tailgate, find out what time your tailgate spot opens and plan to be there when it opens. If you get there early, then that just means that you'll be able to claim your favorite spot, setup your tailgate, and enjoy a stress-free day.

6. Find a Good Parking Spot

When it comes to tailgating, finding the perfect parking spot is key. You want to make sure that you're close to the field. You'll also want to make sure that there's enough room for the amount of people you have at your tailgate, as well as the amount of space you'll need for your tailgate setup. Also, having bathrooms close by is also a must-have. There's nothing worse than having to walk forever to find a restroom, especially when the walks takes you away from the good times being had at your tailgate.

7. Know Your Game Day Setup

When you claim your tailgate spot, the setup is usually what happens next. Instead of guessing where to put and how to setup items, know your tailgate plan ahead of time. How will you setup the food? Where will you place the grill? Where are you going to have the game area? How accessible will you have the beverages? How will the chairs be placed? The last thing that you want to do is waste time standing around trying to figure out where everything will go. If you plan your setup ahead of time, you'll be prepared and will have your setup arranged in no time.

8. Have Games Ready to Play

There's a lot of standing and sitting around during a tailgate. Yes, there's also a ton of talking, laughing, and eating too. However, as the hours pass by, it's always fun to throw a few games into the mix. One year, my brother surprised us at his tailgate with a pinata. We had so much fun trying to bat down the pinata. Cornhole and ladder ball are also fun to play during a tailgate. There are always the classic options which are a football and a frisbee.

9. Pack Up and Wrap Up

A tailgate should be easy to setup and just as easy to take down when you're getting ready to head to the stadium. Figure out how much time it's going to take you to take down your tailgate setup and plan accordingly. When it's time to take down your tailgate and pack everything into your car, start assigning tasks so that everyone can pitch in and get the job done quickly and seamlessly. Also, don't forward to clean up your trash.

10. Leave for the Game On Time

Even though the tailgate can be a ton of fun, you're there to see the big game, right? You'll want to time it just right so that you're tailgate setup is taken down in a timely manner. That way, you and your gang can head to the game in time to see the kickoff. The last thing that you want to do is hear the cheers from the fans on your walk over to the stadium. You want to be joining in the cheers from your seats!

What is your favorite tailgating tip or trick?

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

_DSC0021 Jen Tilley has an insatiable appetite for all things related to baking and cooking. She is the author, photographer and recipe developer on How To: Simplify, a blog that shares tips, tricks and recipes to simplify life in the kitchen. She enjoys sharing recipes that require very few ingredients and only a small amount of prep and cook time, all of which make time spent in the kitchen simple and enjoyable.

You can find her online at JenTilley.comHow To: Simplify@HowToSimplify, and Jen Tilley Photography.

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