Part 2: Tailgating 101

Hello, kittens.

Okay, so, let’s just address the elephant in the room…

I know it has literally been months (two to be exact) since, my last post. So, before I ramble on any further, I just want to take a minute to apologize for my unintentional hiatus.

Aside from the craziness of school and the holidays, I’ve recently started a new job, leaving me with so little time to set aside for writing. While I do have to admit I’m loving my big girl gig, I’ve missed LS, and promise I have posts on posts coming your way to make up for it!

That being said, let’s get into Part 2 of my Game Day Series!

** Warning: USC puns ahead. My apologies in advance, bRUIN fans. **

Okay, so, since I’m still basking in the tear-worthy glory of my Trojans “Darnold-ing” their way into the Rose Bowl, or, as I like to call it, “that place the Bruins play except on New Year’s Day,” I thought I’d talk a little tailgating 101 with y’all.

It’s bowl game season, people, which means we still have a significant amount of prime college football matchups to watch before we retire our game day gear and garb.

That’s right. It ain’t over yet, and if you’re one of the lucky fans who get to cheer on their favorite team one last time this season, then I have a few tips to help you go out with a tailgating bang.

Every year, I try to make it to as many USC games as I possibly can. However, there is one game my family and I never miss, and that’s the homecoming game. Homecoming is a proud day for my Trojan alum dad, and to help him celebrate, we have always prioritized this specific tailgate above the rest. Over the past few years, however, my parents have completely relinquished the prep and organization of this tailgate to moi.

At first, I thought, alright, how hard could it really be to plan a tailgate? It’s just a bunch of booze, excessive amounts of barbecued meat, and some chairs right?

Hahahaha. Nope.

Not right. Not right at all.

I’ve come to learn that tailgating is quite an art, and it can really take a LOT of work if you want to do it up right, but it’s SO worth it and such a blast.

Just the thought of my friends and family coming together all for the love of college football actually makes my heart flutter.

I have a sickness. I’m aware.

But, whatever. I LOVE tailgating, and, with Austin’s help over the past few years, I feel like we’ve finally found our groove. This year’s homecoming tailgate was the most successful and least stressful ever, so I know my tried and true tips and tricks will be helpful for all those wanting to tailgate like a champ, not only for the last few games of the 2016 season, but for future seasons to come.

+ Tip #1

Location, location, location.

I’m telling you, guys, location is everything when it comes to tailgating. Whether you’re on campus or in the stadium parking lot, scout out the perfect spot before you set up camp.

Yes, that might actually mean waking up at 4am and pitching your easy-up in the dark, but trust me, it’s a must.

We typically tailgate on campus, so I always look for a spot that’s near restrooms, power outlets, pre-game band/spirit rallies, and, most importantly, the bookstore.

I mean, I’m the queen of mid-game day wardrobe changes, so I need to be as close to the bookstore as possible. If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m a firm believer that you can never own too much game day gear.

+ Tip #2

Pace yourself.

Personally, I suggest making a tailgate checklist to keep yourself organized (I’ll add the actual checklist I use every year at the end of this post). I also make sure to pace myself. If I know we have tickets to a big game that requires an equally big tailgate, I like to go shopping in spurts instead of stressing myself out trying to buy everything in one go. The more you try to pile on at once, the more likely you are to forget something essential.

First of all, figure out what time the game is, when you’re planning to get there, and how many meals the day is going to require (i.e. if the game starts at 5pm, we usually get to campus by 6am, and plan on eating breakfast, midday snacks, and a late lunch/dinner).

Now, some campuses or stadium lots have pre-game restrictions, meaning that you may not be able to set up your tailgate at the crack of dawn like I do. In that case, make sure you figure out what time you’re allowed to start making camp well in advance. The Rose Bowl, for instance, restricts tailgating until about 6 hours prior to kickoff. Typical UCLA party poopers, am I right?

Okay, last one. I promise.

Anyways, when it comes to the shopping aspect of tailgating, I like to start with the biggies (i.e. easy-ups, coolers, chairs, wagons, portable grills). If I already have them, do they all still function properly, or do I need to buy a new one? Start there and work your way to the little details and more perishable items.

The next step would be the smaller necessities like flatware, trash bags, paper towels, and napkins.

When it comes to the flatware, don’t over do it. Disposable everything is the only way to go. Who has the time to try to wash a fancy platter at a tailgate? No one.

Keep it simple, but stick with the game day theme. I recommend hitting up your local Party City for disposable dishes/flatware and decorations. This store has everything you need in every color of the rainbow, plus a huge selection of NCAA college team party supplies.

While at Party City, you can grab your “little details” too. I like to find tablecloths, candy bowls, plastic flower vases, mason jars, party beads, tattoos, and other fun knickknacks that I don’t technically need, but that add that extra touch.

Next, booze. I like to make my liquor run before I go shopping for the food, but you can obviously combine these steps and save yourself a trip.

Finally, make sure to pick up anything perishable as close to tailgate time as possible, because no one likes rock-hard sandwich buns or soggy Bloody Mary garnishes now do they?

Tip #3

Create a meal game plan + set up stations.

Like I said, every tailgate will be different when it comes to the meals depending on the kickoff time. However, if you have a full day of tailgating ahead of you, plan accordingly. I mean, just because you’re partying under an easy-up or dining off the bed of your truck doesn’t mean you can’t still be the hostess with the most-ess.

Anyways, after I set up camp in the morning, I immediately designate stations.

I’ll set up my Bloody Mary/mimosa bar, breakfast station, and coffee station. Around midday, I convert the Bloody Mary/mimosa bar into the beer/hard liquor and mixer station, and replace the breakfast food and coffee with snacks and candy. When it’s time for lunch/dinner, I break down the snacks and make room for the meat, side dishes, and desserts.

Throw whatever you don’t need away as you go so you’re not lugging unnecessary leftovers back to your car before the game.

Tip #4

Little details make all the difference.

If you can afford to add a little extra wow to your tailgate, why wouldn’t you?

Personally, I like bringing fresh flowers, colorful cupcake toppers, team buttons, party lights, flags, painted mason jars, and pretty much anything with a USC logo to my tailgates. The more team spirit, the better, and trust me, your guests will notice.

Tip #5

Pack it in early.

The only thing I can honestly say I don’t like about tailgating is tearing down camp and cleaning up the tailgate space before the game.

Since it can be a bit of a daunting task, I always try to give myself at least an hour to an hour and a half before kickoff to pack everything up and make my way to the stadium.

Also, to help speed up the process, invest in a wagon, cart, or dolly. Honestly, anything with wheels is a lifesaver when it comes to tailgating, especially if you tailgate on campus away from your car like we do at SC. Also, don’t forget to load up on trash bags and wet wipes.

+++

Still need some inspo? Check out a few pictures of our setup from this year’s USC Homecoming game.

LEFT: Full breakfast spread + USC Tablecloth + M&Ms + Candy Bowl 

RIGHT: Bloody Mary/mimosa bar + USC Bucket + USC Plastic Cups +  USC Appetizer Plates + USC Cocktail Napkins + Paper Straws + Mini Mason Jars

LEFT: Red Velvet and Lemon Cupcakes with Custom Homecoming Cupcake Topper

CENTER: Full Coffee/Snack/Dessert Station + Cupcakes + Cake Topper + Mason Jars + Plastic Silverware + Medium Bowls + Small Bowls

RIGHT: Cardinal and Gold Mason Jars and Plastic Silverware

LEFT: Austin’s homemade Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce and pickled onions

TOP RIGHT: Fruit and potato salad side dishes

BOTTOM RIGHT: Austin’s HUGE pre-smoked BBQ brisket

+++

Tailgate Checklist

Date:            Kick-off:

Breakfast

+ FOOD:

+ DRINKS:

+ CONDAMENTS/GARNISHES:

+ FLATWARE:

Snacks

+ FOOD:

+ DRINKS:

+ CONDAMENTS/GARNISHES:

+ FLATWARE:

Lunch

+ FOOD:

+ DRINKS:

+ CONDAMENTS/GARNISHES:   

+ FLATWARE:  

Dessert

+ FOOD:

+ DRINKS:

+ CONDAMENTS/GARNISHES:

+ FLATWARE:

Misc. Details + Essentials  ** (These are my personal misc. necessities. Feel free to add/ delete as necessary!) **

Folding Tables + Portable Grill + Portable Speaker +Tablecloths + Corn Hole + Wagon/Dolly + Easy-up + Chairs + Team Flag + Zip Ties + Balloons + Flowers + Coolers + Trash Bags + Paper Towels + Wipes + Lighter + Champagne Bucket + Mason Jars + Party Lights + Ice

+++

Well, that’s really all there is to it, guys, and it’s been working out pretty dang well for me. So, if you like to tailgate, I hope you can use some of these tips, tricks, or ideas to spruce up your site. Also, if you have any game day/tailgating advice to pass my way, please do!

For more game day goodness, I’ve added some Snaps of my favorite tailgate outfits below, OR you can check out Part 1 of my Game Day Series.

(Hover over the pictures for outfit deets.)

Happy tailgating!

Until next time,

xo-kaitlin-signature

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