• Rachel Ray Every Day

Throw a Tailgating Party


We've got game plans for fair-weather fans and flat-out fanatics.

THE ROOKIE

Oh, there's a game today? You can still score with creativity and a little planning.

  • Stop by the convenience store for a disposable cooler, drinks and prepared foods.

  • Keep food portable, says Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe, author of The NFL Gameday Cookbook (sandwiches and pizzas, for instance). You'll have fewer supplies, so less mess.

  • Know the lay of the land. Grab a map for the best routes, spots for food and drink and pit stops.

  • Microwave your eats in the student union, then duck into the college bookstore for team towels or blankets.

  • Once you're set up, don't be afraid to scavenge. Beginners typically bum off fellow fans, says Mike Herchel, co-founder of gatortailgating.com, a tailgating site for fans of 2008 national champion the University of Florida. (Bring extra bags of chips or six-packs to break the ice with a trade.)

THE FIRST-STRINGER

The fight song has been in your head all week, and you started prepping last night.

  • Show up three or four hours before the game to claim a hot spot.

  • Know who's doing what, says Dr. BBQ. Assign tasks like grill master, garbage collector and bartender.

  • Have a game-day kit with everything from first-aid supplies to toilet paper and ponchos, Herchel says.

  • Bring two coolers (one for drinks, one for perishables) and a grill, Herchel says. Pack tables, tents, chairs and, if you have one, a portable TV. On a given Saturday there can be over 50 games, says Andrew Reed, a contributor to sportsillustrated.com's Tailgate Report Card -- you don't want guests wandering off for updates.

  • Taking inspiration from teams, mascots or cities, theme your spread. Tint drinks with food dye and opt for individual apps (so everyone's not crowded around a bowl of Guacamole).

THE VETERAN

You've been wearing a team jersey since diapers and can recite stats like the ABCs.

  • Take enough food for before and after the game, says Dr. BBQ. It'll make the parking-lot-exodus traffic jam much more fun.

  • Have checklists of what needs to be done, packed and cooked, says Reed. A list of guests' phone numbers is also handy.

  • Bring more of everything. Think multiple TVs, towable smokers and grills, and hammocks for pregame naps, Herchel says.

  • Fanatics are all about the finishing touches. Reed would add a freestanding bar, too. If you really want to be the Clark Griswold of tailgaters, throw in a shade canopy and synthetic turf.

  • Organize some tailgating activities, says Herchel. A ring toss, trivia game, horseshoes -- whatever keeps people entertained until those ribs are smoked to perfection.

  • CLEAN AS A (REF'S) WHISTLE

  • Have plenty of garbage bags. Tape them to trees and tent poles, keeping them off the ground so they don't attract bugs.

  • Clean as you go. Done with tongs and ladles? Wash and stow them away now. It'll save crucial minutes later.

  • When draining melted ice water from the coolers, reserve some for rinsing nondisposable items, hands and faces.

  • Scrape down grills before heading to the game, but save the major cleaning for when you get home.

THE NOON START: A PRIMER

Who starts their tailgate when the sun comes up? We do! Make the most of the wee morning hours with these time-saving tricks.

Day before:

  • Choose groceries that do double duty. Salsa will work for Scrambled Egg Burritos with Tex-Mex Salad and with chips; sausage can star with eggs and with peppers in hoagies later.

  • Cook ahead. Assemble breakfast casseroles, like Mini Ham and Egg Casseroles or Cheddar and Chile Egg Casserole (bake them off in the morning) and stock up on heat-and-eat goodies like Cinnamon Raisin Rolls.

  • Pack (checklist in hand). Don't forget coffee and blankets or space heaters for the morning chill.

Day of:

  • Set the alarm to play your team's fight song -- it'll make 5 a.m. more bearable.

  • Make early-morning calls to the notorious snooze-button slappers in your crew.

  • Mind the time: Allow an hour for breakfast, prep and packing and a half hour for setting up the tailgate.

  • Prioritize! Set up The Original Bloody Mary, mimosas and coffee first.

  • Leave the last half hour of the tailgate for cleaning and getting to the stadium.

Website credit: https://www.rachaelraymag.com/real-life/throw-a-tailgating-party

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