Football season is for many of us the premier tailgating season. Here’s a list of tips gathered from around the grill to make your tailgating experience more enjoyable.
First of all we’re going to assume that your barbecue party set-up does not include anything as elaborate as a converted 18 wheeler or a grilling school bus. Don’t laugh! If you’re new to the tailgating experience then spend some time wandering around an NFL stadium or big time college football parking lot during a Fall weekend. You will be amazed at just how far some people will go to produce the ultimate tailgating rig. Some must cost as much as a small suburban house!
1. Scout the stadium parking lot. Before packing the car and loading it up for the first time make a dry run to the stadium on a football weekend. Determine which parking lot entrance lot is the easiest to get into and out of. Take notes on street names and alternative routes.
2. Stadium parking lot spots are first come first serve. Instead of getting to the lot in the middle of the night to insure yourself of your choice spot ask some of the other tailgaters in the area what time they usually get there to set up. You should probably subtract an hour or so from what they tell you because if they get the idea that you will be competing with them for the spot in an upcoming weekend they may want to make sure you get there a little late.
3. Have a propane gas grill. I know that charcoal has its own special allure but for tailgating charcoal grills have some real disadvantages. Charcoal briquttes stay red hot for a long time after the cooking is done. You will be in a fairly confined space with the grill for maybe several hours and it gets all too easy for somebody to forget that they can still get burned. Rambunctious children are the most likely burn candidates. Disadvantage number two is ash disposal.
3a. Have something to light the grill with. Those old fashioned flint tweezers work great and you can leave one in the glove compartment with no ill effects. It is very embarrassing, trust me on this, to have to ask your neighbor for a book of matches or a lighter.
4. Bring plenty of ice. Two coolers are better than one. Use one cooler filled with ice to keep the food chilled and safe. Use the other cooler only for ice cubes for drinks.
5. Bring more than enough seating. Those flimsy folding lawn and beach chairs look like they won’t hold a 10 year old but they’re much stronger than they look. They don’t take much storage space either. Inflatable seating is a good back-up choice but make sure you include a battery powered air pump in your repertoire.
6. Have a rain and snow contingency plan. Portable gazebos are nice. Cantilevered umbrellas will keep the grill and food stuff out of the heavy stuff but are not big enough to fit the people too. You can use a tarp in a pinch but make sure that it’s sloped enough to prevent accumulation. Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon and a heavy downpour will collapse a flat tarp and ruin your day in a New York minute. A catalytic camp heater can pump out enough BTUs to take the chill out.
7. Make a checklist. BBQ accessories. Food. Condiments. Drinks. Ice. Seating. Rain gear. Full propane tank.
8. A portable generator makes tailgating a whole new experience. You can power TVs, radios, lights, fans and whatever. The inverter types are smaller, quieter, and use less fuel.
9. Make friends. Tailgaters are territorial. You’ll have a lot more fun among a friendly crowd of regulars.