It’s no secret that football season is a pretty big deal in the Winchester household! While I love any chance we have to get back to Chapel Hill for a Saturday in the fall, our schedules are pretty full with other commitment (Go Knights!!), so we take advantage of long distance tailgating whenever we can. A few weeks ago, UNC actually played football on Thursday evening, so I took the opportunity to throw an “at-home tailgate.” I invited over a few friends, pulled out my favorite Carolina-themed dishes (some of my favorite wedding presents), and poof! We had our own little tailgate in the comfort of our living room.
Since we can’t all always cheer on our favorite teams in person, I wanted to share some of my favorite tips for hosting your own at-home tailgate. Lots of gratitude and hugs to Blue Ribbon Vendor Jacqui Cole for capturing our little party!
1. Opponent-Themed Menus: Mix things up from the usual burgers and hot dogs. Research your opponent and draft your menu from there! UNC was playing Pitt, so we had a sandwich fixing station, complete with fresh coleslaw and french fries, inspired by Pittsburgh’s Primanti Brothers staple. We also served Klondike bars, because they are native to Pittsburgh. Playing Kentucky? Hot browns would be great! Battling against UGA or GT? Don’t forget the pecan pie! I also asked my girlfriends to bring over a few sides to help complete the menu.
2. Game Time Menus: Early games are a great excuse for a breakfast menu. Make an egg casserole and have someone bring over some doughnuts. And don’t forget the mimosa bar! Mid-afternoon kicks are a good reason for a bits and bites menu, so stick to a few savory appetizers and some fun miniature desserts. By the time bowl season rolls around in late December, it’s normally chilly in most parts of the South (I’m looking at you, Florida). Have everyone bring over their favorite soup to share. Make sure you have mason jars on hand to divvy up the leftovers!
3. Festive Dishes: Since you’re at home, you don’t have to stick to disposable plates and plastic forks. I loved bringing out some of the serving pieces we got as wedding presents, especially some of our Carolina-themed dishes. Leave out some extra empty platters and dishes if you want to transfer the food your guests bring. And don’t forget that your tailgate gear can become potential decorations for the table (isn’t that UNC picnic basket the cutest?)–big hugs to my MIL for one of my favorite bridal shower gifts!
4. Team Spirit Décor: Chances are good that if you’ve tailgated at any point, you have some appropriately colored paper goods. If not, I am a big believer in stocking up on a few school color supplies that you can pull out for an impromptu game-watching party! We dug out our Carolina blue paper napkins and I snagged some fun re-inflatable letter balloons for some quick and easy decorations. We put out a giant ballon with fun Carolina blue and navy tassels on the porch to set the mood from the moment guest’s arrived, and once everyone was gathered, we brought it inside to add to the atmosphere. If you’re crafty, you can always make a team color garland with some tissue paper and twine. Or, pick up pre-made garland at your local craft store!
5. Stadium Snacks: Just because you’re not at the stadium for the game doesn’t mean you can’t serve concession foods, so pop some popcorn and bring out the peanuts! Serve the peanuts in the shells for an extra realistic experience (just make sure you have a empty bowl around to catch the shells). Get creative and think of ways you can bring the stadium experience to life in your home. How about Cracker Jacks or big pretzels for the second half?
6. Tailgate Games: Don’t let dust gather on your favorite set of corn hole boards or ladder golf just because you’re not at the stadium! Set them up on the yard and play during halftime or before the game starts. Part of the fun of going to a football game is the whole game day experience. Nothing is stopping you from a few games of corn hole between the first and second half!
Even if your party is just for you and your beau, cheering on your favorite team is always worth a little celebration. So pull out your favorite stadium blanket, pop some popcorn, and get cozy! Have fun and go team!!
P.S. Are you an expert tailgate-at-home party thrower? Have a great idea for how to cheer on your team from your sofa? Share your ideas below!