All your tailgating food is prepped and packed away. You've double-checked you have the game tickets and you're dressed appropriately in your team colors. After you've pulled into the parking lot, it's time to unpack and set up for the tailgate, so here are a few tips to help you set up and maximize your space appropriately!
1. Define your space.
The first thing you need to do is mark off your space. Park the car so that the trunk end is where you'll be tailgating (thus the name!) and pull up as far as you can to mark your space. Then set up your tables, chairs and coolers so that you define your space — the last thing you need is to have strangers wandering through your space or your neighbors crowding in!
2. Set up the grill.
When setting up the grill, here are a couple of things to think about. Find a corner so that smoke doesn't blow into people's eyes but not so far out of the way that you feel isolated. If you're using a charcoal grill or have foods that need some time to cook like whole chickens, get the grill started ASAP while you finish the rest of the unpacking and setting up. This also gives you time to troubleshoot if you forgot fuel or are having trouble lighting it.
3. Strategically place coolers and tables.
Hopefully you brought two tables with you to make life easier! Set one up by the grill, and place the other one somewhere else — this second table is your buffet and serving table.
Place the cooler with food that needs to be cooked next to the grill, but place the other coolers near or under the serving table. That way, guests can dig around for drinks without getting in the grill master's way. This is also a good place to put wet wipes or set up a handwashing station.
4. Put out trash and recycling containers.
To prevent the buffet table from piling up with used napkins and dirty plates, tie a heavy-duty trash bag to a table leg or bring a few sturdy plastic bins that you can line with trash bags. Have one for trash and one for recycling, but make sure to clearly label them so you don't have to sort through everything when it's time to clean up!
5. Put out snacks.
Tailgating is an excuse to eat and drink continually, so make sure you put out some nibbles or snacks immediately to keep the troops happy. If it's a hot day, put out perishable items like creamy dips in small batches that you replenish often rather than leave out for a few hours. Take up a friend's offer to help and let them be in charge of putting out food as needed if you'll be busy grilling.
6. Be weather appropriate.
If it might rain or even if it'll just be a hot, sunny day, think about setting up a tent for shelter or shade. Remember to weigh down objects that can easily fly away on a windy day like napkins.
7. Make it easy to locate you.
Attaching a flag or balloons to your car will make it easier for friends and family to locate your tailgate, especially as it starts to get busy closer to game time!
8. Be nice to your neighbors.
Even if your neighbors are rooting for the rival team, be nice to them. Offer them some food, swap recipes, trade stories, and take the time to be social — you never know if you might need to borrow a lighter from them to get the grill going since you forgot yours!
Pitch in your own best tips (and good stories!) of tailgating!