Needless to say, we love our college football and basically tailgate every home game weekend. Today, I wanted to share some tried and true tips for hosting a successful tailgate for your favorite team.
1.) Consider your guests
Who is coming to your tailgate? Kids? Families? College friends? Older adults? Colleagues? It is important to consider your guests in every aspect of your planning from the food to the drinks to the activities. For example – if there will be kids attending, you might want to have kid-friendly snacks and activities/toys to keep them busy while the parents hang out. On the other hand, if your guests like to drink, have alcoholic drinks on hand, but be sure to include plenty of non-alcoholic options for the non-drinkers! This is also important to consider if there are any food allergies or dietary restrictions as you certainly don’t want to alienate any guests!
2.) Consider your space
While some tailgates can be inside, many often end up outdoors. Regardless of your location, it is important to consider your space before planning any other aspects of your tailgate. Do you have enough places for people to sit? Do you have tables to set up food? Are there outlets handy (for anything from crockpots, to fans, to TVs)? Do people have enough room to move around? Is there a bathroom nearby? If it is outside, do you have a rain plan? One tip: If you don’t have enough chairs for folks to sit in, have them BYOC (Bring their own chair). Many folks have those collapsible camping chairs (or as my family called it, baseball chairs) already, so have them bring them with them to ensure that folks have a place to sit.
3.) Keep the menu simple
I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite aspects of tailgating is the food! We have done a variety of menus for our tailgates, but one thing we have learned is that it is important to keep your menu fairly simple. If you are in a spot that doesn’t have access to outlets for crockpots and electric warmers of any kind, think about either doing a chafing style set up or stick with food that can be eaten (safely) at room temperature. Also, consider doing food that is easy to eat – especially if seating is limited. I love sticking with dips and bite size foods that are don’t even require forks. I will be sharing some of our planned menus in future posts, but here are some of our crowd pleasers:
- Pulled pork – My husband has a smoker so he buys pork in bulk and smokes it (we’ve done 20+ pounds before!) We have put our buns for sandwiches, chips and cheese for pork nachos or even potatoes for a BBQ potato bar. Always a hit!
- Rotel dip: Velveeta cheese + Rotel = pure magic. We change it up depending on our guests’ tastes (varying levels of spicy or adding meat to it) , but our guests love it! Super easy to do too – just throw everything in the crockpot and let it melt. Also, we keep the ingredients in the pantry so we always have them on hand in case we need an impromptu party dip.
- Cupcakes – Sometimes I make them, and sometimes I pick them up from the grocery store (Publix is my favorite – especially since they often have themed ones), but it is an easy dessert that is tends to be a favorite among children and adults alike.
- Chili bar – When it is cold, we at least have one game where we serve homemade chili (hubby’s award winning recipe) and all kinds of toppings to go along with it. I’m sure I’ll do a post on setting up a chili bar later.
- Signature drink – Around these parts, a drink called the Yellow Hammer is popular. We usually mix up a bunch to offer guests something else to drink besides beer and it is usually a hit. Sometimes, depending on our crowd, I’ll either make this a “virgin” and put out the booze for folks to mix themselves or I’ll offer another “mocktail” so non-drinkers can enjoy a festive drink as well!
4.) Don’t be afraid to ask people to contribute
We’ve had some fun menus, but some of our best tailgates are the ones where we’ve done it more potluck style and had our guests bring something to contribute. Not only does it take the pressure off of us to prep TONS of food, but it also gives us the opportunity to try out new foods that maybe we wouldn’t have prepared ourselves. We’ve done this a couple of different ways: We’ve done it where we provide the main dish, and have people sign up for sides; or we’ve also encouraged guests to bring their favorite snack or appetizer. Sometimes we get homemade dishes while others come straight from the store, but either way, everyone is happy and there is plenty of food to go around without you having to prep it all yourself!
5.) Don’t forget the necessities!
It is sometimes easy to overlook the smallest things like:
- Ice – We usually load up two coolers – one to keep things cool and one for fresh ice for drinks.
- Serving utensils and platters – If we’re at the house, I break out my Alabama themed Magnolia Lane platters, but if we’re outside, I get cheap plastic ones from the party supply store so I don’t have to worry about breaking them and, if you don’t like to do dishes, you can toss them after the fact. Same goes for serving utensils – the cheap ones work best so you don’t have to worry about them accidentally getting thrown away.
- Napkins – I usually get bigger napkins for food and smaller napkins to put with the drinks, but regardless of how you do it, bring plenty! We go through TONS of napkins on game day weekends! Plus, it is a fun way to show off your school colors because you can get collegiate (or pro) themed napkins or just grab some solids in your colors.
- Plates/Cups – Like the napkins, you can go all out with team-themed goodies, solids, or even clear or white, but regardless make them disposable. Even though it is technically cheaper just to wash things, believe me, it is well worth the time and effort to just go with disposable things.
Well, there’s my list! Do you have any tailgating tips you would like to add?
Until next time,