The Perfect Tailgate
Expert Advice

The entire Phelps clan takes a selfie during a 2010 tailgate at the University of Georgia just before kickoff.

Here is a little secret to the perfect tailgate party: the host actually determines—and gets to decide—if the event was perfect or not. Below are a few ways to make sure every tailgate comes out perfect.

#1 Have fun. If you are having fun, then no one else matters. The truth is, we are almost always trying to please our friends and family, and this can sometimes take the fun out of our parties.

#2 Eat. The perfect tailgate has to involve friends, family and, most likely, food. Though fun can surely be had without food—and therefore becomes a personal choice—the presence of some type of food is mandatory for my perfect tailgate. This is simply because I love to eat.

Because I am the pitmaster of my family, most times we fire up a grill or pit of some sort. But every once in a while, we skip the grill and go for finger foods to lighten the load. It is more than OK to pack up a basket full of ham sandwiches and leave the grill behind sometimes.

#3 Play. Games are most times a huge component to fun at tailgates. Cornhole, horseshoes, throwing the football or baseball around, or even playing hopscotch can bring a dead crowd to life. But these games, as fun as they are, may also be a hindrance to some tailgaters. Maybe to those folks, a nice fire ring would be more suitable. Perfection can be obtained by making your setup suit both types of people.

#4 No haters. We all know that some of us are a little more competitive than others, but pulling for a losing or struggling team should never impact the outcome of your tailgate. Sad to say, I have seen some tailgaters lose their ability to have fun because of friendly nagging about their team or favorite players. If possible, keep these folks at a distance, as they can quickly ruin a great time for a ton of folks.

#5 Size doesn’t matter. Last, but certainly not least, never let the size of your tailgate determine perfection. A great family outing among tailgating friends can bring memories that will last a lifetime.

Here’s a photo of a 2010 tailgate with my family and me. This was indeed one of the best tailgates we have ever had. We ate at the Varsity in Athens, Georgia, before a University of Georgia football game, parked up at the bookstore, and tailgated there for a bit before catching the Dawg Walk into the stadium.

The kids still talk about this tailgate to this day, and we didn’t have any type of grill, tent, TV, or food with us at all. We only had a small football to toss around and the four of us ready to cheer on our beloved DAWGS.

Until next time…keep it smokin’!


Kell Phelps was born to barbecue and grill. Since 1985 he has been surrounded by barbecue and grilling and it has been his livelihood since 2002. It is his business to know all things barbecue and grilling as he publishes the monthly National Barbecue News that his family started back in 1990. If you are looking for more barbecue or grilling recipes, events, or information simply visit their website at