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Tailgating for beginners

You’ve got to start somewhere, right?
We've compiled a few tailgating tips for beginners. | Brittany Connor
We've compiled a few tailgating tips for beginners. Brittany Connor

Crazy as it sounds, I went to my first Eagles game a few weeks ago (the one against the Redskins — it was pretty epic!) as well as tailgated for the first time. Yes, I’m from Philly and while I spent most of my twenties in New York City, I was long overdue to check this quintessential Philly experience off my bucket list. Long story short, turns out I love football (once someone explained it to me properly) and learned that tailgating is super fun.

Of course, because I didn’t do my research, my friends and I hit a few snags in the tailgating portion of our evening and for that reason, I decided to put together a handy, dandy guide for people new to tailgating at an Eagles game. In addition to offering up first-hand experience, I also chatted with expert tailgaters,  Kate Marlys of Philly PR Girl and landscaper and caterer, John Rodio for their tips as well.

1. Choose the right vehicle.
Think of your wheels as your base of operations for tailgating. My friends and I drove a GMC Sierra 1500 and it was pretty massive, providing plenty of space for us to carry tailgating essentials like tables and chairs. It also offered the option of using the cargo bed for seating, which was a plus.  John Rodio reveals that he built a custom vehicle for his tailgating adventures that was equipped to cook for large crowds. It even spun off to become a full-fledged catering company. “We do corporate events, birthday parties and weddings,” he says.

2. Layering is a must.
Kate Marlys is all about being prepared for the weather at tailgating and advises newbies to bring layers. “Tailgating for an Eagles game is an all-day event, so be prepared for a shift in the temperature from morning to afternoon, or afternoon to evening,” she says. I was so excited to show off my new Carson Wentz jersey a few weeks ago, that I almost left my jacket behind. Next time, I plan on adding a hat and scarf to the mix as well as hand warmers as the weather gets colder.

3. It’s all about the eats.
Tailgating wouldn’t be complete without great food and drinks and Rodio advises to plan your menu ahead of time, taking note of the number of people you’ll be serving as well as the weather. “You’re not going to do soup in September,” he says.  Not all of us are as ambitious as Rodio when it comes to cooking before the game. My friends and I ended up ordering burgers, milkshakes and a bunch of finger food from P’unk Burger on East Passyunk, and they delivered right to our lot. Pizza is another great option, and SLiCE offers the same delivery service for tailgaters who don’t feel like cooking.

4. Get there early.
If you want to tailgate like a true pro, you really need to get to the lots early, because they fill up fast. “Most lots open seven hours before kickoff,” Rodio says. “If I’m going to a 1 p.m. game, I’ll get to the lot by 5:45 a.m. Mostly everyone is set up by 7 a.m.” As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm and what’s more, you’ll have extra time to socialize with your fellow tailgaters. “I love that tailgating brings people together,” Marlys says. “It's actually a great way to network, too.  I've met friends and even current clients tailgating.”

5. Don’t forget to clean up.
While preparing the food and drinks requires planning, so does cleaning up. Don’t forget to bring trash bags to dispose of the remnants of your tailgating adventure. What’s more, keep an eye on the clock and get in line for the stadium early. “If you’re a real fan and are going into the game, plan on long lines to get into the stadium. You don't want to miss kickoff," Marlys warns. 

So what are your tips for tailgating like a pro? Tell us in the comments below.