Tailgate Decorating Part 1
The level of decorating for a tailgate party is totally a personal preference. If you are simply eating a meal with your family at your vehicle before going into the stadium for the game, you may not care to go to any extra effort. But if decorating with your team’s colors energizes you for the game or if you have invited friends to join you for a tailgate meal, you may want to add an assortment of colorful details to increase the fun of the experience:
Your must consider two things as you plan your decorations. First, all of your decorations must be packed, driven to the tailgate site, unpacked, set up and then repacked to bring home–all in a fairly short time period. If you have family members to help you, you probably will not find this to be a problem. But it never hurts to be certain everyone knows you will need them to participate in the packing, set-up and clean-up. You also need to plan carefully to be certain you take everything needed with you, since you will not be able to go home or to the store to get whatever you forgot. Be sure that there is room in your vehicle to fit all the decorations with the equipment, food and family.
The second consideration is the weather, for it will play a large role in your tailgating decorating. If it is extremely windy, hot or cold, you need to be especially aware of the decorations you chose to use. If the wind is strong, you may want to get a windscreen for your tent to protect your guests. You may also need to eliminate some of your lightweight decorative items or bring items to weigh them down. Attachable weights to keep your tablecloths from blowing off or up onto your food may be needed, or rock or marble weights in vases to keep them from tipping over. Masking or duct tape and scissors are very handy items to bring along.
If it is very hot, you may want to consider a tent, canopy or large umbrella to protect your guests and food from the direct sunlight. You may need to have some towels or fabric to place over hot plastic chairs for your guests’ seated comfort. Be certain that none of the decorations or decorative food items you bring will melt in the heat. Extra sunscreen and bug repellent is thoughtful to have on hand, and inexpensive sunglasses, sun visors, or fans would be welcome party favors to use at the game.
If it is very cold, blankets for warmth would be very welcome for your guests to throw over their laps. A portable fire pit may be a very warm and welcoming addition to your party space around which you can set up your chairs. It would be gracious to have extra gloves and scarves on hand, and inexpensive pocket warmers would be much appreciated party favors to taken into the game.
Identifying your party space from a distance
• A tall flag flying above your vehicle will allow your invited guests to identify where you are in the lot—you may purchase a telescoping flagpole or make your own from a telescoping window-washing pole. If your vehicle has fishing pole holders, the flagpole can stand up in that. You may also put it in a patio umbrella stand or attach it with painter’s masking tape to the side of your vehicle.
• Large colorful inflatable figures (sports player or team mascot) or other large creations may be placed on the roof of your vehicle to call attention to your party. Be aware that if it is very windy, these may not work well.
• A large Mylar balloon or bouquet of balloons can be tied to something near the top of your vehicle. This decorative option works far better when the weather is not too windy or too hot. Remember that this option also requires either that you bring the balloons to the tailgate with you (which may take up too much space in your vehicle) or that you bring a small disposable party helium tank with you to blow up the balloons after you arrive. Also, remember that Mylar balloons will stay afloat far longer than latex balloons, making them work the extra expense.
• A large colorful sandwich board sign made of cardboard or vinyl can be placed on the roof of your vehicle—the writing on the sign needs to have the fewest number of words in the largest size possible in colors that stand out clearly on the background color.
• Colorful team flags on stands, inflatable items, or other large party props (like large cardboard cutouts or mannequins of sports players or team mascots) may be put at the edge of your party space to catch the attention of guests looking for you in the parking lot.
• Directional signs at the two ends of the row of vehicles can help guide guests to your space. These signs can be made of firm cardboard or vinyl board and attached to metal stands or wooden stakes if the tailgating is done in a field of grass. If the tailgating is in a parking lot, you may need to create a sign that can stand up on its own—a stiff sandwich-board sign would work, as would a sign on a post in a bucket of sand or gravel.
• If you can add some sort of color contrast to the team colors which other tailgaters will also be using, your space will stand out more clearly.
• In your invitations, tell your guests what identifying items to look for so they can find you.
Delineating your party space
• A tent or canopy by your vehicle obviously outlines your party space.
• An old rug or indoor-outdoor carpet remnant will define the party space; these may also soften the hard parking lot asphalt on which your guests will stand or prevent your guests from having to stand in wet or muddy grass.
• Setting up your table(s), chairs and coolers in an attractive conversational grouping in the space beyond your vehicle defines your “room.” If guests have been invited to meet you at the parking lot, be certain to set your chairs in an open-ended circle, so guests can easily enter your space. Leave enough space to move around or to add additional chairs that guests may bring.
• You may want to define your space with more elaborate means—
• You can create standing stanchions with PVC pipe and caps on which you drape roping, wide ribbon, vinyl caution tape, or crepe paper streamers in your team colors. You may also create wooden stanchions on wooden bases.
• If your tailgating space is in a field, three to four-foot wooden stakes can be tapped into the ground and colorful ribbon or banners attached. You may attach ribbons, streamers or banners to the back end of your vehicle (to the rack on top, to the hatchback or the truck top) that lead outward to the stakes at the end of your party space.
• Tall poles can also be used to mark the party space, to attach colorful streamers, or to fly identifying flags. Inexpensive patio umbrella stands can be used to hold these poles up if they can’t be put into the ground (make certain your pole fits in the stand before you go to the tailgate and will stand steady).
Decorating your party space
• In your party invitation, encourage your guests to wear team colors—this encourages team spirit and contributes to your party’s visual effectiveness. Your guests become an easy part of the decorations.
• Whenever possible, bring items from home that are in your team colors or compatible ones—if your tent, canopy, chairs and coolers fit or do not fight your color scheme, you already have the beginnings of an attractive tailgate party. If you don’t have items in the desired colors, check with family or friends to see if you could borrow from them. If you are not going to be tailgating on a frequent basis, it is unnecessary to buy things you won’t be using often.
• You can adapt the items you already have to fit your color schemes—you may have beach towels, blankets, sheets or bedspreads in these colors which can be thrown over chairs, coolers or side tables to make your tailgate more attractive. You may also find inexpensive fabric or vinyl in the correct colors at the fabric store or at local thrift shops. Plastic tablecloths or a roll of plastic table-covering in your team colors can be purchased inexpensively to cut up to cover any number of items besides your table.
• Pillows for your chairs can be comfortable for your guests and additions to your color scheme. You can cover throw pillows from home with large team-colored fabric squares or bandanas, gathering the four corners up with rubber bands for an easy temporary party cover. These pillows can also be very welcome cushions to use on hard stadium seats.
• Coordinated sports or team decorations like banners, streamers, garlands, hanging décor, or favor bags/ boxes are available at party stores or from online suppliers. The décor can usually be used more than once if it is taken down carefully and stored neatly. These can be hung from the trunk or hatchback of your vehicle or your tent poles or top.
• Piñatas of sports balls or figures can be hung from your tent or a pole merely for decoration or used as table centerpieces.