Tips and tricks to maximize your tailgating experience

By Natalie Stanowski, Contributing Writer

Homecoming Week is upon us, and many of us are preparing for the Illinois versus Purdue game. With the game planned to start at 2:30 p.m., there will be plenty of time for fans to get out their grills and mingle beforehand.

Tailgating before a game is not only a great way to show your team spirit, but it’s also a long-time social tradition at the University. Here are a few great ideas for you to bring your A-game to this Homecoming celebration.

Cook ahead of time

While the grill may be the bread and butter of a typical tailgate, you probably don’t want to spend your entire day behind it. Cook as much of your food as you can beforehand to save time for festivities during game day; this applies doubly if you don’t have a portable grill to take with you to cook on the spot.

When prepping dishes ahead of time, make sure to be conscious of how you plan to eat it, too. If you don’t plan on bringing a lot of plates or silverware, consider hand-held foods like burgers, hot dogs, chips and kebabs. That way, you don’t need to worry about running out of supplies.

Freeze water bottles

With October starting off at a whopping 88 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s especially important to stay hydrated. Kill two birds with one stone by freezing plastic water bottles in place of ice for your cooler. Not only do you not have to worry about buying bags of ice, but you’ll have a cold drink waiting for you once they melt.

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Bring bungee cords

A growing staple at tailgating events, bungee cords are ridiculously useful. If you have a place to hang things from, consider threading a bungee cord through the center of a paper towel roll and hanging it. You won’t have to worry about it being knocked to the ground and getting dirty. You can hang posters, jackets or even a portable fan.

If you have a water cooler, you can also wrap the paper towel roll around the handles with the bungee cord. This trick is especially useful if your water cooler is doubling as a hand or dishwashing station.

Pack essentials the night before

As college students, we’ve honed our skills as master procrastinators, but leaving packing to the last minute might result in forgetting some essentials at home. Whether you’re using plastic containers or shoving everything together into a grocery bag, make sure to do so ahead of time, when you know you can take it slow. This will ensure you don’t leave anything behind.

As for the essentials themselves, single-use cups, plates, napkins and forks are recommended. They might not be environmentally friendly, but it’ll save you time afterward if you don’t need to wash them. Bringing some duct tape and a first-aid kit will help with any small accidents or breaks, and if you plan to use a grill, a bottle of aloe vera will go a long way should someone get a burn, whether from food or the sun.

Most importantly, don’t forget your football tickets.

Natalie is a sophomore in LAS.

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