Things About Tailgating Most Southerners Get Wrong

Things About Tailgating Most Southerners Get Wrong

Y’all, bless our hearts, but even us Southerners sometimes mess up the sacred art of the tailgate. Football, food, and good company are the holy trinity of Southern Saturdays, but there are a few things we tend to get a bit off track with. Here are a few common tailgating mistakes — we gotta do better!

1. Thinking more is always better

Southerners love a good spread, but sometimes we go overboard. Tailgating isn’t about having 17 different side dishes; it’s about having a few delicious things everyone will actually eat. Focus on quality over quantity, and remember, leftovers are a thing! Don’t forget that everyone will be indulging come game time; a few well-executed crowd-pleasers will make a far better impression than an overwhelming buffet spread.

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2. Forgetting the importance of shade

The sun might be shining, but that Southern heat is no joke (even The Atlantic agrees)! A proper tailgate needs ample shade. Whether it’s a canopy tent, a big tree, or several umbrellas, no one wants to be roasted like a Thanksgiving turkey before kickoff. And remember, if those early fall games linger into the afternoon, the angle of the sun changes, so plan for shade that can be adjusted.

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3. Not having enough seating

Not everyone wants to stand around the entire tailgate. Sure, folding chairs are practical, but think comfort! A few camp chairs, a picnic blanket, even an old couch if you’re really committed, will ensure everyone can relax and socialize. Having a variety of seating options means folks can choose how they want to lounge, making the whole tailgate experience more enjoyable.

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4. Trying to do everything yourself

Tailgating with friends and family is all about the community! Don’t be a martyr and insist on making every single dish. A potluck-style approach means everyone contributes, you get to sample more goodies, and it takes the pressure off the host. Plus, asking everyone to bring their “signature” dish adds an extra layer of fun and anticipation to the gathering.

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5. Neglecting the cooler situation

Warm beer? Soggy sandwiches? No, thank you! A tailgate requires multiple coolers: one for drinks, one for food, and maybe even one specifically for ice. Invest in good quality models, and your refreshments will stay perfectly chilled. An organized cooler system means no frantic digging through mountains of ice, and a smooth flow for grabbing a cold drink or assembling a plate.

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6. Skimping on the entertainment

Food is essential, but a tailgate needs some fun too! Cornhole, ladder toss, even a simple deck of cards are easy to pack. If there are kids, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, or a spare football will keep them occupied. Don’t forget the music – a portable speaker with a playlist of game day anthems will instantly create a festive atmosphere.

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7. Overlooking the practical stuff

The devil’s in the details, folks. Things like trash bags, napkins, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and a first-aid kit seem obvious, but you don’t want to be scrambling when you need them! A little prep makes all the difference. Consider packing a “tailgate emergency kit” with those essentials so you’re always prepared and can handle any unexpected hiccups.

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8. Getting too competitive about the food

Yes, rivalry is part of the game day spirit, but remember, a tailgate is supposed to be enjoyable! Don’t let those smoked ribs or the legendary seven-layer dip become a source of unnecessary stress. Have fun with the food and leave the cutthroat competition for the teams on the field. A friendly rivalry adds spice, but too much competitiveness turns a tailgate into a tension-filled kitchen showdown.

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9. Showing up too late (or too early)

Tailgating has its own sweet spot in terms of timing. Arriving too late means missing out on the prime setup spots and the leisurely pre-game socializing. But get there too early, and you might be setting up in the dark with an empty parking lot for company. Planning is your friend here! A little research about designated tailgating zones and their opening times will ensure you arrive at the perfect moment.

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10. Underestimating the prep time

The best tailgates look effortless, but don’t be fooled — there’s work involved! From shopping and chopping to pre-cooking or marinating, factor in ample prep time the day before, USA Today suggests. You don’t want to be frantically assembling dishes in the parking lot instead of enjoying the camaraderie. Think of those pre-tailgate prep sessions as part of the experience — put on some music, pour a glass of sweet tea, and make it enjoyable!

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11. Forgetting about the post-game cleanup

The party’s not over when the final whistle blows. Being prepared for the cleanup makes everything go smoother. Extra trash bags, wipes, and a designated spot for dirty dishes will keep the mess contained. Plus, you’ll be so grateful to your past self for not having a giant mess to deal with when you get home exhausted. A collapsible trash can or a few large bins make post-game cleanup a breeze.

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12. Not dressing for the occasion

Of course, you’ll wear your team colors, but don’t forget about the weather! Southerners know how quickly conditions can change. Layers, comfy shoes, a hat, and being prepared for a potential downpour will make sure you’re comfortable no matter what Mother Nature throws your way. A rain poncho or foldable umbrella stashed in the car can be a lifesaver if the weather takes a turn.

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13. Letting rivalry get out of hand

Good-natured ribbing is part of the fun, but don’t let smack-talk turn ugly. A tailgate should be a place where fans of both teams can mingle and enjoy the pre-game atmosphere. Remember, we’re all there for the love of football, so let’s keep it friendly. At the end of the day, the tailgate is its own event, and rival fans sharing a laugh is part of that unique experience.

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14. Neglecting your tailgate neighbors

The best tailgates often involve friendly chats with other fans and sampling goodies from the surrounding setups. Show that Southern hospitality! Offer a drink to someone passing by, or strike up a conversation about the game. You never know, you might make some new friends. Sharing a little food, offering a spare chair, or even helping someone adjust their tent shows you understand the true spirit of the tailgate.

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15. Overindulging too early

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, y’all! Pace yourself with those delicious snacks and beverages. You don’t want to find yourself snoozing in a food coma and missing the actual game. Hydration is key too, so alternate those beers and cocktails with plenty of water. Consider some lighter options alongside the heavier dishes to balance things out.

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16. Leaving the team spirit at the stadium

Win or lose, don’t let a disappointing outcome ruin the whole day. Pack up with a smile, thank your tailgate crew, and crank up your favorite post-game tunes on the way home. There’s always next week to work on perfecting your tailgate setup and rally for your team! Remember, sometimes the best tailgate memories are made regardless of the score on the field.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.