Similar to football, there’s different levels for tailgate planners – whether you’re a rookie, a starting player, or a seasoned veteran, throwing the best tailgating party in Mountaineer Country is a daunting task. For most Mountaineer fans, tailgating before the game is just as important to the West Virginia football experience as being in the stadium, watching your favorite team win. So how can you compete with the hundreds of other tailgaters for the best tailgate award? Check out these tips, best-practices, and unique ideas that can make your typical tailgate become the tailgate to be at.
Pre-Game Prep Time
- Know what role everyone is playing
Though throwing a tailgate without help is possible, you can be guaranteed it won’t go off without a hitch. Assign roles – or jobs – to your friends and family. You’ll need a chef, chef assistant, an Entertainer, and a Cleaner. Assigning the roles first will help you organize and coordinate the items you are bringing to the tailgate. For example, the chef and chef’s assistant will obviously be in charge of bringing the food, cooking utensils, eating utensils, etc.
Everyone has that one crazy friend who is without a doubt the biggest WVU fan you know – that’s your entertainer. Have that person be in charge of guaranteeing everyone has a great time. They’re responsible for music, games, and fun, school spirit items like facial tattoos, pom-poms, and foam fingers. Your cleaner will bring all of the items you’ll need to leave a spotless parking lot at the conclusion of your tailgate
* After the first game of the season, these roles can stay assigned if everyone on your “team” is a regular tailgater.
- Pack up the night before
There’s nothing that puts a damper on a tailgate like waiting for someone to show up because they procrastinated packing, or had to run out and get some last minute items. Pack as much as you can the night before the game to make sure you’re not the one that ruins a good time.
* If you’re the Chef or Chef’s Assistant, purchasing a separate toolbox for your tailgate necessities is a handy, time-saving trick. Purchase a toolbox with multiple drawers and keep items such as spatulas, tongs, grill cleaners, sauces & spices etc. organized. This cuts down on your preparation time and helps you stay organized throughout the tailgate season.
- Over packing is better than under-packing
You’ll never hear anyone complain about being over-prepared – unless grandma is upset she’s taking home 30 cupcakes no one ate – but not having enough food or drinks for everyone can turn your “Best Tailgate Ever” into a nightmare. Nothing is worse than hungry friends who have had a few beers.
Make sure your tailgate menu has more that the tailgate staples (i.e. burgers, hot dogs, and potato salad). Find great, easy recipes that gives everyone something they want – like steak/chicken kabobs, taco salad, pre-baked mac & cheese, shrimp cocktails, etc. If you plan on tailgating early in the day for a night game, make sure you’re prepared with breakfast foods too (i.e. omlettes, sausage, and bacon).
This is important for all roles, but most important in regards to food and cleaning products.
* For cleaners, bring extra trash bags, napkins, silverware and plates. These are the items you will go through the most. Trash bags can be used in multiple different ways – like creating a “throw-away cooler” using the box from a case of beer. Add two trash bags to the box to act as liners, put beer back in the box, add ice, and throw it away when you’re finished!
Game Time – The Day of Your Tailgate
- Get there early
If you sat down and really thought about it, you could probably come up with a long list of reasons you should make sure you’re early for your tailgate. The biggest reason is probably so that you can get the best spot possible for your party. In Mountaineer Country, good tailgating spots go quick – so if you aren’t planning on arriving early for breakfast, make sure you’re there between 4 and 5 hours before the Mountaineers take the field.
This means leaving the house in time to get ice and any other last-minute items.
* Tying a unique balloon on a long string to your vehicle will help your tailgate attendees know where they can find you. (Tying the same unique balloon to your car every tailgate will help other fellow tailgaters remember who had the best tailgate at the previous game and encourage them to join.)
- Food prep, entertainment, and decorations come first
Set-up everything you need for your tailgate according to your roles. Chef’s and chef’s assistant should set-up the grill, the food, and the food table first so they can begin cooking right away. Cleaners should make sure there are an appropriate amount of “trash cans” around your tailgating area – a good rule is one trash bag per vehicle. The entertainer should set-up the games, decorate the tailgate, and get the music started as soon as they arrive.
* To keep food hot, use a cooler to create a temporary “hot box.” Place hot bricks wrapped in aluminum foil in the bottom of a cooler also lined in foil. Put pre-cooked food on top of the bricks to keep it warm and fresh.
** Keep cheap, plastic drawer sets filled with paper plates, cups, throw-away utensils, etc. so everything has a place out of the way. Label drawers and coolers appropriately so no one has to search for anything.
- Have fun, but don’t be that guy
While it’s important that everyone has a great time, no one likes a tailgate party that is completely out of control. Don’t be that guy.
As the entertainer of the tailgate, make sure everyone is having a great time – but don’t let your tailgate become the tailgate no one want’s to be near.
* Don’t abandon friends who have maybe had too much to drink. If their safety is a concern, or if you’re worried they may get in trouble with the law, it’s your responsibility to get them home safely. There are plenty of options for friends who can’t get themselves home. There is no excuse for yourself or your loved ones to drive under the influence of alcohol.
Post-Game – Clean Up
It’s time to get your tailgate cleaned up and get to the game. Ask yourself – would I rather have an hour to two hours to leisurely clean-up the area of and around our tailgate? Or, would I rather stop all entertainment 20 minutes before heading to the game and risk the chance of forgetting something? Chances are, you’ll want to give yourself the time to do a proper clean-up and pack-up of your tailgate.
* Cleaner: purchase a cheap storage container to pack all of the dirty dishes and utensils in after everyone is done eating. Taking plates and silverware rather than disposable utensils and paper plates can help out during cleanup – leaving less garbage laying around.
If you take the time before hand to prepare and organize, cleaning up can be done in a fraction of the time it would take if you didn’t prepare and organize. Make sure you throw away everything that isn’t reusable.
No matter how you clean-up just make sure you do your part to keep Mountaineer Country as beautiful as it has always been. No true Mountaineer fan leaves trash to litter their home.
Think You’re Ready to Claim the Title of Best WVU Tailgate Party this season?
Mountaineer World presents the “Best Mountaineer Tailgate” photo contest. The winner will receive a FREE Mountaineer tailgating tent from Mountaineer World!
Log on to Facebook and enter the photo contest located on the Mountaineer World Facebook page in the “Tabs.” The contest will run from September 5th until October 1st
Enter the best picture of your tailgate party from any of the Mountaineer football games leading up to the first Big12 conference game against Oklahoma State on October 3rd. Share the contest on your Facebook page to increase your chances of taking home the big prize!
Do you have what it takes to throw the best WVU tailgate party?