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Tailgating at Ole Miss

Tailgate Group / Facebook

Tailgating at Ole Miss

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How to throw the ultimate tailgating party

It’s almost tailgating season, and we couldn’t be more excited to partake in the pregame ritual of drinking, socializing and eating some great food. But there’s more to tailgating than just throwing some beer in a cooler and burgers on the grill. To throw a successful party on game day you’ve got to do a little preparation ahead of time to make sure it goes off without a hitch.

Everyone has their own style of tailgating, but no matter your style, these tips and tricks will help you pull it off.

Pack your gear like a pro
Missing a chair or forgetting a table is the last thing you want to happen on game day. Gather up the gear you need and pack your car the night before. And don't forget to make a checklist, so you won’t forget the lawn chairs, tables, tent, grill and food. Throw in a Bluetooth speaker or two so you can play music throughout the party. You’ll be less stressed on game day if you only need to pack the food and drinks the morning of game day. 

Bring extra face paint and temporary tattoos to the tailgating party to make sure everyone is able to show off their school spirit in as many ways as possible. 

Tailgating decorations
When setting up your spot, the more over the top you go the better. The team colors should touch every part of your party. It's a good thing adding color is easy. Using tablecloths and plastic cups and serving platters in your school’s colors will add school spirit all around your tailgating party. To add another layer of decoration, hang banners, streamers and balloons to really show off the love of your school. 

The food
The food and drinks might be the most important part of a tailgate party. To make things easier when it comes to assembling burgers at the tailgate, do some prep work at home. Slice up toppings like tomatoes, onions and lettuce in advance and if you’re not using premade burger patties, form your burger patties before you head to the game, so you’ll be able to just throw them on the grill instead of wasting time forming them at the tailgate. Use an old six-pack container to neatly organize your condiments. If your tailgating menu includes steak, consider marinating it the overnight so you’ll get all of the flavor and seasoning on game day. 

People won’t be picky when it comes to the menu. The food should be delicious, simple and easy to eat. Stick to dishes that only take one hand to eat so you never have to put down your beer. Chef Jeffrey Gardner recommends making these dishes on game day: spinach artichoke dip, grilled mexican street corn, bulldog caviar, proper pepper pimiento bacon sliders, bourbon bacon chocolate chip cookies, bourbon lime chicken tacos, classic deviled eggs, Coca-Cola glazed baby back ribs, easy buffalo chicken dip, Frito pie bombs, guacamole, leftover steak nachosMemphis BBQ pork tacos, pecan pie bars, quick and easy chili, red beans and rice, Southern cast iron fried chicken (serve cold or room temp at tailgate), and Vidalia onion dip.

What's your ultimate Southern tailgating personality?

Presentation is everything at a tailgate party. Pick out aesthetically pleasing serving platters that are both functional and durable. A tailgate is not the place to use your favorite dinnerware and serveware. Chances are, after a few drinks, a dish or two could get broken and you don’t want those broken plates to have a special meaning. Another tip? If you don’t have room to pack a table in your vehicle turn your trunk into a table on game day. 

Keeping food warm throughout the tailgate can be a little tricky. Make sure to have a few cans of Sterno on hand to keep dips and food warm. If you want to hide the look of the Sterno cans, Southern Living suggests creating a triangle of three bricks around the can and placing a cast iron skillet filled with your favorite dip on top. 

Your team’s colors should extend to the food as well. While it might be a little hard to serve a purple and gold burger, a purple and gold cupcake is definitely possible. Color coordinate your desserts with your team colors to add more color to your tailgate spread.

A well-stocked bar and cooler will keep the tailgaters happy and hydrated throughout the day. Some stick with beer, while others move from beer to cocktails the closer it gets to kickoff. To properly pack the correct drinks, talk with the group of people you will be tailgating with. If your group is leaning more towards beer make sure everyone brings different beers so you have more of a variety on game day.

If your group is more of a cocktail crowd, divvy up the liquor duties and assign people liquors, mixers and barware to bring to the tailgate. You’ll be able to assemble a full bar if everyone brings a few things. Wine is also a great option on game day if you're not a fan of drinking beer or liquor during a tailgating pary. Those sticking to beer should also consider choosing cans on game day. Beer bottles are harder to pack in a cooler and clean up at the end of the tailgate. And remember: Alcohol shouldn’t be the only thing in your coolers. Throw in some water bottles and Gatorade to stay hydrated during the day so you‘ll be able to make it to kickoff.

Game Time
Football, drinking and grilling are essential tailgating activities. After setting up your tent, lawn chairs and the grill, the fun really begins when the red plastic cups start filling up.

Of course everyone’s there to celebrate their favorite team and get ready to watch the big game, but there are more fun and games to had during the tailgate. Playing yard games, like cornhole, beer pong and ladder toss, will keep tailgaters of all ages happy and occupied until kickoff. 

Photo credit (hero): Tailgate Group Facebook
Photo credit (presentation): NEST Decor Facebook
Photo credit (grill):  Pam Menegakis / Unsplash
Photo credit (cupcakes): Cupcakes by Cindycg Facebook
Photo credit (bar): Lessie Rivon Facebook


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Rachel Taylor is a staff writer at Southern Kitchen. She moved to Atlanta earlier this year after graduating college in Maryland, and has been a digital audience specialist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Politically Georgia, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times on Maryland's Eastern Shore. She has lived in France and Italy, and loves to travel.

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