Tailgate parties are an American institution. They are a perfect option for corporate events or client incentives.
I am based north of the (U.S.) border so I didn't grow up with tailgate parties. I am ashamed to admit but, even though I attended a Big 10 school (home of the Fighting Illini), I didn't go to a single game. It's not that I don't like football. (I grew up watching CFL and NFL games on TV with my dad.) At university, I spent most of my time hitting the books.
So, 1 1/2 years ago, when a prospective corporate client asked me to organize a tailgate party for a college and an NFL game to which they would be taking clients for an incentive event, I had to do my homework. It's at times like this, that the opportunity to post questions in LinkedIn Groups can come in handy.
Carson Tang from New York's Carson Worldwide quickly educated me.
"Tailgating is the pre-game social and food entertainment the fans enjoy in the stadium parking lot. Some have become rituals and often a community-based organic presence, where people are sharing their best foods (barbecue and private designs), as well as sharing the contents of their coolers. Some fans look forward to the tailgate party more than the game itself."
Apparently, a group of fans travel to the game together. They park their vehicles in one area of the parking lot with the trunks facing each other to create a party area. From the back of the trunks come chairs, folding tables, pop-up tents, barbecues, grills, crock pots, music and a host of goodies.
This sounded like fun so I dug deeper. Lori Daniels of Creative Concepts in Cincinnati gave me the lowdown on menu selections. She advised that, for an early game, brunch items are served. Think waffles, pancakes and sausages. For afternoon games consider chili, nachos, sliders, wings and sloppy joes. For evening games, the menu consists of dinner items.
Francine Scuderi, a director of alumni development in New York, pointed me to The Food Network, which has a host of menu selections on its Tailgate Party and Big Game Day Bash sections. You can also do a search on the site for "tailgating."
If you have the budget for it, invite some players who are not participating in the day's game to sign autographs.
If you are working with a more limited budget but you don't want to do it yourself: at some stadiums, there are professional tailgate party operators who set up a tent in the same area at every game. They provide a buffet, beverages and the music. Some even have TV screens so that tailgaters can take in the pre-game action.
If you have a higher budget, there are caterers who have tailgate party packages. They will provide everything, even tables and chairs, to enjoy the treats. Event planners can organize the whole thing and provide waiters and bartenders to set everything up, man the buffet , serve beverages and handle clean up.
I learned a lot in the process of exploring options for tailparties. Three things are certain:
- When I was at university, I should have spent less time in the library and put in some time in the football stadium.
- I must add attending a homecoming game and checking out a tailgate party to my bucket list.
- The next time the Fighting Illini make it to the Rose Bowl, you'll spot me at the tailgate party and in the crowd!
No matter what side of the border you're sitting on, for your next corporate event, try something different. A tailgate party followed by sitting together at an NFL, AFL, CFL or college game may be just the departure from standard fare that your team will love.