Tailgating is an American tradition that can be dated back to the Civil War in the mid 1800’s. People showed up with baskets of food to cheer on the Union soldiers by yelling “Go Big Blue!” Nowadays tailgating is saved for less extreme matchups with, some would say, equally dedicated fans. Football is normally the first event to come to mind when thinking of tailgating, but there are tailgate parties for concerts and other sporting events as well. The most common location for a tailgate party is in a parking lot. With modern technology, setting up a mobile kitchen is becoming easier and easier. Although tailgating is named from the use of a truck tailgate, having a truck is not a requirement for a great tailgate party. Buses, cars, vans, and even the occasional 18 wheeler can be used as a great tailgating vehicle. As long as the vehicle can be loaded down with various items for the party, it’s good to go. No matter what the cause or location for the party, there are some definite tailgate necessities to make the party work.
A party is not a party without food. Tailgaters usually chow down on picnic foods such as burgers, hot dogs, sausage and ribs. There are some who go to extremes, having their parties catered or serving dishes such as lobster, but picnic food is typically enough for the common tailgater. So it goes without saying that a grill is a necessity. The type and size of the grill is more of a personal choice. For the casual tailgater who may only tailgate a few times per season, a small charcoal or propane grill should be just enough. It’s compact and portable, but it can also be used at home as well as at the party, which is going to be a bonus. For the diehard tailgater there are grills designed to attach to the back of the vehicle, this way you can just pull in, park, and fire up the grill. Some people even take grills big enough to feed a small army. Any grill that can be safely transported to the event will work. Although the most common form of cooking for these parties is grilling, some people have been known to bring smokers and deep fryers as well. With the main goal being cooked food, any means will work. Just plan to have the food cooked at least an hour and a half before the game starts.
Other common tailgating foods are salads, sandwiches, soups. Many of these are made in advance and transported to the party. It’s common to see salads such as coleslaw, potato, pasta, and even regular veggie at tailgating parties. Sandwiches are a big hit also. They are cheap to prepare, easy to take a long, and everyone can choose their own toppings. Mac and cheese, baked beans, and soups are typical hot side dishes that can be prepared the day before. Some party goers will prepare chicken wings, pizza, and nachos as well. You could probably find just about every type of food at tailgate parties. Since the football season can be rather cold at certain stadiums, a lot of tailgaters prepare warm foods to ward of the cold. Hot subs such as meatball, pulled pork and Philly cheese steak are hot on the menu of many tailgaters. Some also provide casseroles and stews. Desserts are normally simple to eat foods such as cookies and pies that are made ahead of time. Transporting all of this food safely is the main objective after preparing it. Engel brand cooler/warmers may be just the answer. They can be used with 12 Volt or 110 Volt power supply. This means you can plug it in at home, get it to the temperature you need (either cold or warm), then take it with you for use in your vehicle. The Engel fridge will keep the food at the right temperature so you will have more time to party, and spend less time reheating food.
If there is food, there is drink, making this another necessity. Most tailgaters will tell you that beer is the drink to be had at a tailgating party. While most people may prefer this, it is a matter of choice. Pop/soda, juice, and bottled water are also a good idea to have on hand for people who don’t care for beer. Plastic cups with peoples name or initials written on the can help with the confusion of whose drink is whose. Just be sure to take along ice for people to use in their cups. Mixed drinks are also common drinks for tailgating parties. Having a 12 Volt blender along for the ride can help when whipping up margaritas. Since it is cold in some places, hot drinks may be another item on the menu. Coffee is a great way to keep warm and keep energy during the colder tailgating parties. Some people may just enjoy having a nice cup of coffee with their meal. A portable coffee maker is an easy way to prepare coffee while tailgating. Just plug it into the cigarette lighter socket of your vehicle and brew fresh coffee. Bubba Kegs® are also great to have on hand. They can keep drinks warm or cold using the Bubba FAT™ dual wall insulation. They come in all different sizes, going as large as 128oz, and some have bottle openers built into the handle. Whatever the drink of choice for the party is, be sure to have plenty on hand.
With all the food being cooked, having eating utensils is a no-brainer. Plates, plastic ware, knives, napkins, and serving spoons and forks should definitely be on the list of any tailgater. Don’t forget the condiments (salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, ect.). Although a slaw dog is appetizing, and a plain cheese burger is good, not everyone will prefer to eat there meat without the basic toppings. Mix beer, rowdy fans, and open drinks all around, and you are very likely to have a spill on your hands, so having towels on hand is also a great idea. If you want to cook the food you are going to need a way to light the grill, therefore, bring matches or a lighter. Watching the pre-game show is a great way to amp up any tailgate party. Some tailgaters never actually enter the stadium, but instead enjoy the entire game from the parking lot. 12 Volt televisions are a great way to enjoy the game, whether you just want to watch the pre-game show or the entire game. With all of the different sizes available for these TVs, everyone is sure to find one that fits their preferences. Now, for the people who tailgate no matter when the game is, a 12 Volt spotlight might not be such a bad idea. Night games may start when the sun is still up, but they don’t end until long after the final rays have faded from the sky. You can party long into the night with the light from a spotlight, the glow of the TV, and the cheers from the stadium in the background.
Although not everything for tailgating parties is 12 Volt, there are a lot of items available to make tailgating easier. Running all of these things off of a single car battery can lead to big problems, especially if you plan to drive the vehicle home after the tailgate party is over. For this reason, you may want to consider other items for your tailgating checklist. There are 12 Volt battery guards available. These work by suspending power to the 12 Volt accessories being used when the battery voltage drops. This saves the battery from being drained, allowing you to be able to start your vehicle and go home. Another item to consider is a 12 Volt rechargeable emergency jumpstart system with an air compressor and power inverter. This handy little device can be used for so many different things at a tailgating party. First and foremost, the jumpstart system will allow you to start your low or dead battery. The built in power inverter allows you to also run 110Volt appliances as well as 12Volt, allowing you to plug in items from home. The air compressor, not counting on your tire going flat since tailgating involves parked vehicles, can be used for inflatable furniture and team gear. If these don’t seem to fit the bill, purchasing a voltage meter would also work. Just be sure to keep an eye on the battery as you enjoy the party.
While most tailgaters party at their hometown stadium, some travel to any game their team plays. Plus, just because you live in Green Bay doesn’t mean you have to be a Cheese Head. With this in mind, preparing for tailgating parties in different weather conditions is pretty important. Warm weather doesn’t call for much preparation; maybe an umbrella or canopy to block out the sun. Warm weather is basically ideal tailgating weather. Rainy weather would also call for some type of umbrella and rain coat. Even if the weather doesn’t call for rain, having a rain coat on hand is smart. They are small and easy to pack, so why not? For conditions that are cold, obviously you want to be warm. Although some diehard fans run around with painted chest in the dead of winter, not every tailgater is going to be so brave. If you plan to go into the vehicle to warm up ever so often, a 12 Volt heater or electric blanket would do well. This way you don’t have to turn on the vehicle to get warm. For those tailgaters who don’t want to miss any part of the action, maybe have a few travel blankets to wrap up in while outside in the cold. When packing for the weather it’s more of a “just in case” packing. One other “just in case” item to pack for tailgating is a first aid kit, because you never know what could happen. So, just in case, you will be prepared.
Tailgating can be very enjoyable. While most people tailgate majority of the season, even going once or twice is fun. Tailgating is about friends, food, and the game. It’s a way for people from all different parts to come together and enjoy a common theme, no matter the party is for. Being prepared with all the necessities for a great party only adds to the atmosphere. Using a checklist is a great way to make sure you have everything you are going to need. Dress to support your team and decorate your vehicle as well. Get all the items together the day before if possible. But mainly, enjoy the time spent outside in a parking lot in the shadow of a stadium, cheering for the team you love. Now that you know what you need for the best tailgate party, get out there and party.