If you have gone to a football game this season you have probably seen an announcement of someone being named “the tailgater of the week” on the jumbo-tron. How the hell can one tailgater be head and shoulders above everyone else in the parking lot? Who are the judges and what makes them qualified to render a decision on what makes the best tailgate party? The biggest questions is, “how can I get my tailgate party noticed so I can win?” Follow these 10 simple steps and you will place yourself in the best position to be named “Tailgater of the Week”.
1. Choose The Best Location - Parking on a ‘hard aisle’ makes it easy for the tailgating judges to find you. If you are parked 20 stalls deep and buried between two monstrous RVs, how will the judging committee find you? Also, park near the entrances to the stadium’s administration offices. More than likely the committee members will start scouring the parking lot after leaving their offices. Also, they will be returning to those same offices to go over their notes and share what they saw out there. This gives you the opportunity to be one of the first and last tailgate parties they see before making their decisions. Lastly, do some research and find out which sections of the parking lot has the best tailgating reputation. If you want to be the best, you need to be among the best.
2. Be Noticeable – This may be a bit obvious but the biggest, loudest and most active tailgate party will draw the attention of the judges. Fly flags on huge telescoping flag poles. Hang banners and streamers with the home team’s colors. Get everyone in your party to wear the same outrageous T-shirt that will draw the attention of the judging committee. Break out the home sound system or hire a DJ. Nothing attracts eyeballs like loud music and people having a good time. Play tailgating games that are fun and will draw attention. Lastly, have a unique and noticeable tailgating accessory on hand to attract attention. Set up a mobile tiki bar and make tropical frozen drinks using the Drill Blender. That kind of a set-up will surely get you noticed.
3. Know When The Judges Will Be In Your Area – If you know when the judging committee will be making the rounds you can reserve your energy for that window of time they will be out and about. This way you can have your music playing, flags flying and all of your guests there to make the best impression.
4. Girls, Girls, Girls – It’s not just a Motley Crue song or the motto of every strip club in America. Having girls at a tailgate party will help you win. More than likely there will be a few men comprising the judging committee and hot girls tailgating will always catch their eye. Which tailgate party would you stop and check out? The tailgate party with 10 guys with beer bellies and male pattern baldness telling stories about how great of a high school football player they were? How about tailgating with these two girls playing beer pong? Yeah, we thought so.
5. Serve Tailgating Food That Is Appropriate – In order to impress the judges you need to have a tailgate party menu that stands out. Everyone else has hot dogs and hamburgers. Yawn. Booooooring! The judges are looking for something out of the ordinary. If you are doing some NFL tailgating and your team is playing the Buffalo Bills, serve buffalo burgers. If you are doing some baseball tailgating and your team is playing the Arizona Diamondbacks, serve barbecued rattlesnake. You get the point. Exotic food choices will impress those judges and help you stand out above the other guys serving baby back ribs smothered in Bar-B-Que sauce out of a plastic bottle.
6. Cook More Food Than a Soup Kitchen on Thanksgiving – Winning a tailgating contest is all about going over the top and making an impression on the judges. With that in mind, what would happen if you ran out of food before the judging committee stopped by? Your grill should always be sizzling and smoking. By offering a wide variety of food and lots of it, you are sure no one in the judging committee goes hungry.
7. Stick With a Theme – Most college football tailgating contests are run in conjunction with Homecoming. Normally Homecoming weekends have some sort of theme. A great example is that Kansas State University held their annual tailgating competition, whose theme was “Magic in Manhattan”. Some tailgaters dressed their pets complete with magician’s top hats and even performed impromptu magic shows for the judges. If there is a theme, make sure you know what it is and incorporate it into your tailgate party.
8. Have Fun, But Don’t Drink Too Much – Throwing back a few beers while tailgating is second nature. Keep in mind that dipping into the cooler too many times or drinking too early is not be the best way to impress the judges. You may have the best tailgate party in the parking lot but if you are too drunk to conduct a decent acceptance speech you will not be chosen. The judging staff doesn’t want to parade out in front of thousands of fans a tailgater that was totally wasted. Have a few beers but don’t go crazy.
9. Arrive Early – Many of these judging committees only have about an hour to 90 minutes to make their decisions. If you are not set up and your tailgate party is not in full swing by the time they come around, you will be passed over. They aren’t going to wait for you to get your act together. Also, the perception of being the best tailgater in the parking lot takes a commitment to tailgating. How can you be considered the ultimate tailgater if you are straggling into the lot an hour or two before kick off? Get to the stadium when the gates open to make sure you are ready when the committee stops by.
10. Get Lucky – Obviously this is not something you can coordinate or manipulate but it helps to be lucky. It is nearly impossible for a judging committee to walk up and down every row of the entire parking lot. Unless they are equipped with a golf cart or motorized scooters more than likely they will be on foot. In order to be seen you need to be lucky enough to have parked in the area they walk through. Picking that area may be as random as flipping a coin. In tailgating as with other judged competitions, sometimes ’tis better to be lucky than good.
As with any contest that is decided by a panel of judges, tailgating competition results will be subjective. The winner will be selected based on the opinions and perceptions of the judges. What might be the best tailgate party in your opinion may not register on the radar screen of the judging committee. Even if you don’t win, just have fun and know you had a great time tailgating before the game no matter what.