There’s a slight chill in the morning air … a crispness that signals the change of season from the warm, balmy summer to the cool, brisk fall. As the school kids stand at bus stops with their shiny new backpacks and the apartment community pools start to empty out, fall begins like the faint strains of an orchestra's overture. Soon, the crescendo will arrive with brilliant clashing colors, bonfires, festivals, chili cook-offs, and football.
It doesn't matter if you are cheering on your hometown college team or your favorite NFL players – the one thing that unites football fans is the love of the pre-game ritual, tailgating. Before you load up and head out for your first asphalt-and-sun-filled adventure, brush up on the recipes, games, and etiquette that will make this year's tailgate parties a hit.
Rule number one: Supplies matter. You'll need ice, coolers, folding chairs, cutlery, plastic tableware, paper plates, bowls, cups, blankets (for chilly weather), an MP3 player (with a great football-worthy playlist) and speakers, hats and sunscreen (especially for those of us in the south, where September temperatures can still be quite summer-like), drinks (including sports drinks and water), hand sanitizer, paper towels, and antibacterial wipes. You may also want to consider bringing along a first-aid kit, jumper cables, antacids, batteries, zip-lock bags, containers for leftovers, a camera, and a canopy or tent. Don't forget the star of the show – the grill!
If you plan on attending the game, give yourself plenty of time to eat, have fun, clean up, and make the kick-off. For those who prefer to stay at the tailgate party, bring a portable radio or television along to watch the game.
Keep things fun by bringing along some games. A football, Frisbee, bean bag toss, and other games will give you and your friends something to do. Just remember that the lot will be crowded and you are not NFL superstars (no long passes into the crowd!). Be respectful of those around you and keep your music and noise levels at a respectable level.
The food is the most important part of the tailgate party. You'll want to do as much as you can ahead of time. Hand-held foods are ideal (think wraps, hamburgers, and sliders). Chili is a must-have – this can be prepared ahead of time and heated at the tailgate. Bring vegetables already chopped, meats already marinated, and hamburger patties already formed. This will save you time and get the grill going much faster. Always remember the chips and salsa – these are a tailgating must-have. Condiments, sauces, spices, and dressings are equally important – bring plenty for everyone.
Be sure to delegate responsibilities – it will make things much easier if you don't have to remember everything. If alcohol will be consumed, be sure to appoint a designated driver. Finally, don't leave a mess! Clean up after your tailgate party and be sure to properly dispose of all trash.
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