D&B best band award with Jonathan holdingWhen my husband was assigned to his alumni, the United States Air Force Academy, we knew we were in for an adventure. But nothing prepared me for the ultimate adventure—tailgating before a football game at over 7,000 feet. The games in September and early October were filled with crisp, cool weather and lots of pregame fun. But by the time Air Force played Army in November, I knew we were in for trouble. The freezing rain started halfway through our tailgate party and was in full force by the time we were guzzling hot chocolate and apple pie.

One of the things I learned from those game time seasons was the fine art of tailgating. Football season is upon us  there are all kinds of opportunities to tailgate at not only football games, but also at air shows and parades. Here are some tips to make your tailgates more complete—come rain, snow or sleet!

The Early Bird Gets The Location

Does your husband & his best buddy like to play cards? Do you have a novel you want to finish, but never seem to find the time? Do you have an older teen who can listen to his IPod anywhere for any length of time? Anyone one who can answer “yes” to these questions is hereby appointed to go to the tailgate area 3 to 4 hours ahead of time and secure the best location. Look at it as some extra time to do what you enjoy and the tradeoff is that the early bird doesn’t have to participate in cleanup duty!

If you’re tailgating in a parking lot, then select the end of a row at the innermost area for the most space and least traffic. Search for any grassy areas or bring your own turf (rollout grass) to mark your spot. Try to get a nice bird’s eye view of the stadium so you can remember why you’re there so incredibly early! Once you have your perfect spot, mark it with a team banner set high on a bike pole so everyone can see you’re the real deal, and so other tailgaters can find you when they arrive much later.

Safety and Such

Timing is everything on food safety. Make sure your potato salad isn’t sitting out too long and that your hot foods stay hot and the cold stuff stays cold. My rule when it comes to questions about whether I should try to save something for later or whether it’s still okay to serve is:  when in doubt, throw it out! Try to avoid high traffic tailgating locations if you have smaller children or teens who have their I-Pod earphones permanently attached (and don’t pay attention to traffic).


When you’re hosting the tailgate, be sure to delegate as well—it will allow you to have more fun. Most party people are more than happy to BYOC—bring your own chairs and loads of other things too. Assign food items to attendees or let them volunteer to bring their fave dishes. It will help relieve stress, save some money and help everyone feel more a part of the team party.
Sidebar:  Making A List—Checking it Twice

Getting organized will help avoid the frustration of forgetting an essential tailgating tool. Make a checklist at home for everything you want to bring to your party and be sure to include all of it, even if you think you won’t forget it (we once left the game tix at home!)  Here’s a fairly comprehensive list:

  • Apron, Oven mitts, and Chef Hat
  • Beverages
  • Blankets and Protective Rain Gear
  • Binoculars Bottle and Can Opener or Corkscrew
  • Camera
  • Canopy or Tent
  • Chairs and Table, Table Cloth
  • Charcoal & lighter fluid or Gas
  • Condiments
  • Cooker or Grill
  • Cooking and Eating Utensils
  • Cooking Pots & Pans
  • Coolers and Ice
  • Decorations
  • First Aid Emergency Kit
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Flag and Holders (GO TEAM!)
  • Food (list it ALL individually)
  • FUN STUFF — Football, Frisbee, Games (I like Taboo!)
  • Generator  (A portable power source for hard core tailgaters)
  • Lighter or Matches
  • Music – Radio, IPOD, Speakers, Karoke Machine
  • Paper Products (plates, cups, towels, napkins)
  • Plastic Products (storage baggies, leftover containers, utensils)
  • Rope or Bungee cords (to tie things down during wind)
  • Serving Trays
  • Sun Block
  • Trash bags
  • Umbrellas
  • Water (drinking and for charcoal briquettes or fires)

Happy Tailgating!

©2016-2020 Ellie Kay


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