12 ways to enhance your tailgating experience

Football season is here, and with it comes a much anticipated tailgating season. In the excitement of the day, people can forget necessary items and be left in a frenzy. Here are a few tips and tricks to make the tailgating experience less stressful and run more smoothly. 

1. Please plan ahead

This is especially important if you’re planning a big shindig. The worst thing, and the reason why people forget important items, is trying to pull everything together the day of. Make sure the menu is locked down, so there aren’t 10 billion chips and dip but no main dish. Go grocery shopping at least a day before. Take a look at the “Don’t forget list” on A8 so you can start your own.

2. Organization never hurts

Labeling coolers (and having enough coolers) is never a bad idea. This way people don’t have to hunt down the cooler that has their favorite beverage. Plastic tubs or laundry hampers make transport of tailgating goods easy, and they have handles. Make sure to keep your food and beer separate.

3. Have something to mark your tailgate spot

Nothing ruins a person’s day more than if they aren’t able to find the party. By marking the tent or vehicle with something easily visible above the average person’s head, fellow tailgaters can easily find the spot. A helium balloon, streamer or flags are recommended. Also, make sure your friends know the marker!

4. Stadium seats are good for more than just the stadium

Ever find yourself without enough seating for everyone? Stadium seats can be set up on the tailgate of your vehicle or even on the ground for emergency, make-shift seating. This keeps butts from getting sore pre-game time and are also useful during the game.

5. Have a tailgate toolbox

If you’re planning on grilling out, it can be easy to forget various utensils and spices. To keep it simple on game day, prepare a toolbox full of all your go-to utensils, spices and other necessary, non-perishable items. This makes it so you don’t have to worry about packing it on game day, and you can store it until the next game comes around.

6. If you forget your bottle opener, don’t fret, you have a door

If you happen to be drinking beer out of a non-twist-off bottle, and you can’t do fancy tricks like open it with your teeth or a lighter, it’s not the end of the world. There is no need to smash the top of your bottle and try to sip around jagged and broken glass (this is highly inadvisable). The one thing you couldn’t have forgotten was your vehicle. Using the latch on the inside of the car door, place the beer cap in the U-shaped metal latch and press down on the bottle. Or, if all else fails, make friends with your neighbors.

7. Keep it warm

Need to keep things warm but don’t have enough slow-cookers? No problem. Coolers can also double as heat insulators. Warm up a few bricks or heat packs and wrap them in towels, then stick them in the bottom of the cooler. Wrap whatever food you want to keep warm in foil, and stick it in the cooler. Even if you don’t have bricks or heat packs, the cooler will be able to keep the food warm for a time. For best results, put the food in the cooler while it is still piping hot. If you’re planning on using slow-cookers, don’t forget you need a power source and potentially a generator. 

Another option is to place food in a disposable, foil pan. Then, place a can of Sterno between two bricks and put the pan on top of the bricks to keep the food warm.

Don’t forget, you need to stay warm as well. Layers are your best friends, especially in South Dakota. Having extra blankets, jackets, gloves, hats and anything else that keeps you warm is highly recommended.

8. Pre-make, pre-make, pre-make

Honestly, people probably want to spend most of their time drinking and socializing and not worrying about the food. The easiest and most obvious way around this is by pre-making as much of the food as possible. Finger-foods are always a good go-to. You can pre-measure snack foods into solo cups or mason jars (if you trust your friends with breakable items while drunk) so it is easy for tailgaters to grab and go. Walking tacos (or tacos in a bag) are a popular item, so think about making a build-your-own walking taco station. See A8 for some other killer tailgating recipe ideas.

9. If you need to free up your hands, magnets are your friends

Try gluing a strong magnet to the outside of your coozie. It may sound strange, but it will easily stick to the side of your vehicle, so you don’t have to keep holding your beer. This prevents people from knocking over beers sitting on the ground or stealing your beer. Because beer protection is the most important thing, right?

10. Six-pack of condiments

An easy way to carry condiments to the table and keep them from going all over the place is to recycle an old, cardboard six-pack case. And let’s be honest, you probably have one. It can also be useful for holding and separating plastic cutlery and napkins.

11. Cleanup

Now for some grown up advice: be responsible and dispose of your trash properly. Pick the trash up and put it in the trash bags you brought because that’s what responsible people do. Fold-up dorm laundry hampers make good transportable trash bins. Bring along a non-flammable and heat resistant container to dispose of the coals, e.g. a tin trash can. Also, you might want to bring a couple extra buckets in case one of your friends gets a little pukey.

12. Don’t be that guy

Know your limit. Don’t start doing shots and mixing alcohol and drinking a lot of beer so early that you pass out and miss the game. Or worse yet, so that you throw up and then pass out and miss the game. Pukey friends are not fun friends.