For many people across the nation, the season of Fall is synonymous with football season. And although we don’t always agree on which team to cheer for, we can typically agree that gathering with friends and family is one of the best aspects of the football-watching experience. Whether your next backyard tailgating party is in preparation for a family high school game, or whether it’s a viewing party for your local college or pro team, take your tailgating game to the next level with these backyard tailgating tips.
Setting the Scene
To efficiently host gatherings throughout football season, some upfront planning and organization will go a long way. Set aside a “party box” where you can keep all of your tailgating supplies in one place. That way, you’re not recreating the wheel each week. And since you’ll be getting a lot of use out of everything, splurge on higher quality decorations and color-coordinated serving bowls, trays and utensils. You’ll end up saving money in the long run versus buying throw-away items for each event. Also, go ahead and string festive lighting around the yard that will work just as well for holiday gatherings as it will for tailgating, and you’ll be ahead of the game come December.
Feeding the Masses
Tailgate parties have a tendency to grow…after all, the more the merrier. The best meal plan is one that incorporates a lot of small bites that go a long way. Light the pit, and prepare to keep it going. Brats, of course, are always a good choice. You can also grill a variety of sausages and serve them sliced on a platter with an assortment of dipping sauces. Gilled pizza and sliders are also typical tailgating hits. Consider setting up a make-your-own slider bar, which can add to the festive atmosphere. To feed large groups, racks of BBQ ribs or smoked brisket work really well and can be partially cooked ahead of time to shorten game-day grill time. (Design tip: 5 Fiery Ideas for Building Your Outdoor Cooking Station.)
Let’s face it, beer is the standard beverage of choice in most tailgating scenarios but to take your tailgating up a notch, have a little fun with your selections. For example, have everyone bring their favorite six-pack of micro-brewed beer and setup a tasting table. And since game day is all about competition, get a contest going that allows everyone to vote on their favorite. For the non-beer drinkers, Southern Living offers some fun game-day cocktail recipes in quantities that will keep your guests sipping through all four quarters.
The best tailgate parties include lots of entertaining backyard activities like cornhole and washer pitching games, giant jenga, or a good old-fashioned game of horseshoes. If you have an outdoor fireplace or a fire pit, set up a s’mores bar where everyone can roast marshmallows and make fun and interesting s’mores with ingredients like cookies, ginger snaps, Nutella, peanut butter cups and, of course, graham crackers and chocolate.
It’s always a great idea to have multiple conversation zones for the pre-game time period. For larger parties, when it comes time for viewing, you may want to consider investing in an outdoor projection screen. Or, you can setup up multiple viewing areas with the help of multiple TVs and a cable splitter or portable streaming device like a Roku stick. One way to create more viewing space around a single TV or screen is to arrange stadium-style seating by placing chairs in rows according to chair height, with bar stools in the rear row. An additional row can be created in the front by placing pillows on the ground for the kids.
Christi is a professional writer who has been writing about outdoor living and design for magazines, websites and blogs since 2009. A lifelong resident of south Louisiana, she is immersed in a culture that is a gumbo of music, food and outdoor activities. With her husband Pierre, she especially enjoys spending time with their two sons in their Belgard backyard. The Simoneauxs regularly entertain guests in their outdoor kitchen where the specialties are craft cocktails, grilled meats, garlicky dressings, and Cajun and Creole creations. Thanks to the local climate, there's always something interesting in their herb garden to enhance the recipes.
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