Tailgating tricks to ensure a great day

By Isabella Jackson, Supplements editor

With the creation of Grange Grove in 2015, tailgating before Illini football games has reached a new level. Previously known as Lot 36, Grange Grove is the area directly to the West of Memorial Stadium before crossing First Street and is sought after because of the prime location, atmosphere and beautifully landscaped area. It is complimented by a statue of The Galloping Ghost and namesake of the spot, Red Grange. Students are able to reserve a spot in Grange Grove for free, and many Registered Student Organizations, fraternities and sororities and groups of friends are taking advantage of the spots.

When tailgating, there are a few items that are necessary to bring and helpful tips to ensure a great game experience.

Enjoy food at all times of the day

In the past few years, the Illini have had multiple games with a kickoff at 11:00 a.m., meaning that tailgates would start at 8:00 a.m. or earlier. That early in the morning, most of the guests will just have rolled out of bed, and a hot dog or hamburger might not seem too appealing. Instead, opt to bring bagels and cream cheese or make pancakes or french toast sticks on the grill.

When the team is lucky enough to get a afternoon or evening start time, take full advantage of the lunch hour and grill burgers, brats and hot dogs. Make sure to fill a cooler with ice to keep cold food and drinks chilled to a healthy temperate – nothing ruins a game day like a case of food poisoning!

Additionally, don’t forget the snacks. It is always nice to have a bag of chips, some Chex mix or cookies to snack on, especially if you are planning to tailgate for a long time before the game.

Mingle with other Illini fans

One of the best parts of tailgating is being surrounded by other fans who are also there to cheer on the Illini. Tailgates are a great way to meet fellow students, alumni and even professors. Because everyone is there for the game and has similar interests, many people are willing to chat about football, campus and your experience as an Illini.

On Homecoming weekend, the University provided a free concert in Grange Grove, allowing people to break out of their tailgating spots to sing along with the music of Rodney Atkins.

Clean up after yourself

Grange Grove is immaculate before games: the grass is mowed and lush, there are trash receptacles placed strategically throughout and the place is welcoming to the thousands of Illini fans who will walk through its doors. Before you leave to enter Memorial Stadium, make sure to leave your tailgating spot as you found it. Throw away garbage, especially food that could smell or attract animals, and grab any trash that others may have left.

Dress for the weather

The football season spans from late August to mid-November, meaning Illini fans will experience two weather extremes – temperatures in the nineties during the first few games and freezing winds by the end of the season. During the first few games, remember to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.

Blankets are allowed in Memorial Stadium, so if you think it may be chilly, feel free to carry one into the game with you. For most games, it is helpful to dress in layers. Although it may be chilly in the morning when you begin to tailgate, by late afternoon it tends to warm up, especially when you are sitting in the sun. On the other hand, seats in the top of the stadium may be windier and chillier than the tailgating spot on the ground.

If drinking alcohol, stay safe

Many people will choose to drink at tailgates, and while alcohol is allowed in Grange Grove, it is important to be smart and take care of yourself. Eat food and drink water. Don’t be belligerent, especially when you run into fans of the opposing team. Be respectful of those around you, especially the Memorial Stadium volunteers who are there to make sure the day goes smoothly.

If you or a friend does need medical assistance for any reason, there are professionals in Memorial Stadium that can help.

Lastly, have fun. Tailgating is one of the best parts of college football, and everyone can enjoy it, regardless of age or passion for the sport.

Isabella is a junior in LAS.
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