Tailgating has become a cornerstone of American culture, with more than 27 million people taking part in tailgating events each year [source: Bonne]. This iconic tradition goes hand in hand with professional and college sports, with many fans setting up tailgate parties hours or days in advance of the big game. The perfect party gets fans pumped for sports and provides an excellent opportunity for them to display their love for their favorite teams. Tailgating also gives superfans a chance to show off, with many competing to concoct the most elaborate setup or the most objects sporting the team logo. Before you plan your next outing, take a look at this list of 10 tailgating supplies that will help you create the perfect party.
Start your tailgating party off right and keep the action going all day long with a high-quality sound system. Sure, you could just run your car radio all day, but you may find your battery completely depleted when it's time to head home. A separate sound system not only offers adequate volume levels so your music can be heard over noise made by rowdy fans, but it is also more likely to produce high-quality sound.
A simple stereo and basic speakers allow you to keep up with all the pregame action and team news leading up to the big event. If you plan to tailgate for hours or days leading up to the game, consider investing in an MP3 player docking station with high-quality speakers. You and your friends can switch out your iPods every few hours and take turns playing DJ. Don't forget to play your team's fight song at least once an hour!
With energy levels high and excitement at a fever pitch, no one wants to just sit around and wait for the game to start. Bring plenty of games and activities along to keep friends and guests entertained and keep everyone's energy up until kick-off time.
Footballs and Frisbees allow for impromptu games and can accommodate as many players as you can find. Local favorites like ladder golf, dizzy bat and horseshoes can keep you busy for hours, as well. And of course, don't forget corn hole. In this classic tailgating game, players must toss beanbags or balls into a board placed several feet away. It's a popular tradition in which people of all ages can take part, so make it part of your tailgating kit.
For those who enjoy quieter activities, bring along a deck of cards or some easy-to-play board games. True sports fanatics may want to invest in official NFL or MLB checkers, which use tiny football or batting helmets in place of traditional checkers, or a Monopoly game themed for your team.
While true sports fans never let bad weather ruin a good tailgate, you can make your day a lot more comfortable with some simple protective gear. For cold-weather game days, bring along a few fleece throws or stadium blankets to keep you warm during the tailgate and the game itself. If temperatures are expected to dip below freezing, or you plan to start the celebration before dawn, consider adding thick gloves and disposable heat packs for extra warmth. Don't forget hats, scarves and other clothing that displays your favorite team logo.
To prepare for a hot, sunny day, bring along sunglasses and visors to protect your eyes from the sun. Consider adding a portable fan or spray mister to cool you down when temperatures soar, and bring a beach umbrella to provide shade during the pregame action.
Of course, nothing spoils a party like rain. Pack a plastic tarp in your vehicle to cover food and other supplies during a storm, and remember to bring umbrellas for everyone in your party. Emergency rain ponchos in team colors can also help you support your team and stay dry at the same time.
Tents and canopies provide much more than just shade. A tent can serve as a central meeting spot and allow friends to find you at even the most crowded tailgating parties. Tents or shade structures also protect guests from the heat and sun, and can keep you cool and comfortable even on the hottest days. For tailgates that stretch over more than one day, a tent also gives you a place to spend the night once the party has ended for the day.
For the perfect tailgating setup, start with a tent or canopy that's coated with plastic to repel rain. Find a model that's easy to assemble, but also simple to fold and store. If you plan to carry your tent across the field to set up near your friends, choose one that's lightweight and portable enough to transport with ease, yet also large enough to accommodate your entire group.
If you really want to make a statement, invest in a tent or shade structure in your team colors to show your support. Some colleges or teams even sell logo tents designed for tailgating.
Nothing brings down the mood at a tailgate party like a lack of cold drinks, especially when the sun is blazing. The perfect cooler chills your drinks from the moment you set up until you're ready to head for the stadium, and may even keep working long into the night for those who plan to party longer. While many believe that bigger is always better when it comes to coolers, a unit that's too large may be difficult to transport. Strike a balance by choosing a cooler that's large enough to hold all your gear, but still small enough to be practical.
Consider a cooler on wheels to maximize convenience, or go top-of-the-line with a motorized riding cooler that makes getting around easy. For very large parties, try collapsible or inflatable coolers with team logos or colors. Combination grill and cooler units keep food safe until you're ready to cook out but are often too small to hold a lot of drinks.
If melting ice tends to cause a mess in your cooler, stick to reusable cool packs. Simply freeze these handy packs and slide them against the walls of your cooler to keep food and drinks cold all day. You can also skip the ice all together with an electric cooler that plugs into your car's battery charger to serve as a portable refrigerator.
Sure, it's called a tailgate party, but your truck's tailgate is probably not large enough to hold all your friends and gear. Instead, invest in lightweight, portable folding chairs to ensure there's enough seating to go around. Show your team spirit with official NFL or NCAA chairs, or simply stick to team colors. While it may be tempting to choose the cheapest seats you can find, consider springing for a few chairs with built-in padding to maximize comfort. Superfans or frequent tailgaters should look for chairs with built-in coolers, drink holders, footrests or removable cushions that you can take into the stadium with you for comfortable seating throughout the game.
If the weather's nice, or you plan to have a lot of kids along for the party, be sure to pack a few thick blankets so guests can sit on the ground. Blankets also serve as an emergency seating option if your party ends up bigger than you planned.
While it may seem like a hassle to bring along a grill and cooking supplies, the right grill is a must if you want to avoid looking like an amateur. A staggering 96 percent of tailgating fans plan to grill on their next outing, and nearly half bring more than one grill to the party [source: Bonne]. Not only will you save money on food and allow yourself more control over what you eat, there's just something about the smell of food on the grill that screams game day for many sports fans.
While cookout fans may continue to debate the merits of gas versus charcoal, save yourself the hassle and simply choose the type of grill that's most convenient for you. Look for a model that's lightweight and easy to set up but also features a large cooking surface to feed the entire crew. Don't forget to bring the grilling accessories, including cooking tools, charcoal, propane and anything else you need to ensure a successful and satisfying tailgate.
Some of the country's most legendary tailgating parties last for several days, and even the shortest tailgates can last several hours. While grilling is still king when it comes to tailgate food, sides and appetizers are just as important for a successful party. If you plan to grill, prepare as much food as possible the day before to free up time for partying on game day. Simply throwing preseasoned and precut food on the grill is a lot easier than trying to prepare it while surrounded by excited tailgaters. Bring plenty of finger foods, such as chips and dip, appetizers or wings to share, and if you want to keep it simple, skip complicated dishes or those that require utensils.
Food poisoning can quickly ruin a good party, so keep all dairy-based dishes on ice until you're ready to consume them. Better yet, skip the mayo and stick to vinegar-based salads, which last longer with less refrigeration [source: Bonne]. Bring plenty of plates, napkins and other essentials to keep the party going and avoid last-minute trips to the store. And don't forget to bring enough trash bags and recycling bins to haul it all away at the end of the day!
For many fans, the tailgating party also serves as an all-day drinking fest. While there's no need to go overboard, a solid selection of favorite beers should keep most guests happy. Keep drinks on ice so they stay cold all day, and remember that most venues prohibit both kegs and glass bottles due to safety concerns. Wine drinkers should look for boxed wine to avoid broken glass and still enjoy their favorite red or white. Instead of playing bartender all day, bring a few cases of premixed margaritas and liquor-based blends to please the non-beer drinkers.
Before you invest in alcohol for your tailgating party, check the rules at your local venue to ensure that drinking is allowed. Never start handing out drinks without first selecting a designated driver, and always drink responsibly. Keep plenty of sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages on hand for the under-21 crowd, and don't let an underage drinking arrest ruin your day. On cold winter days, consider bringing a thermos of hot cider or cocoa to warm up when the temperature drops.
No matter how much fun you have grilling, playing games and spending time with friends, tailgating is really all about the game. While the right tailgating accessories can make the day more exciting, nothing is more important than showing your support with the right team merchandise. Hats, clothing and other gear help you get excited for the big game and provide an excellent way to meet other fans. And of course, this gear keeps fans pumped up enough to cheer their players to victory.
Simple hats or shirts celebrate your home team, while jerseys pay homage to your favorite player. A team flag flying high above your vehicle helps friends and family find you and also displays your spirit to the crowd. Add in pennants, noise makers and other local traditions, and you're ready to root for your favorite team until the final touchdown, goal, home run or three-pointer of the day.
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- Becker, Stacey. "Meet the Masters of the Tailgate." Telegraph Herald Online. Oct. 28, 2009. (Sept. 22, 2010) http://www.thonline.com/article.cfm?id=261442
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