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Tailgating Has Taken on a Life of its Own

Oklahoma State University Cowboys fans tailgating
Tailgating brings a whole new dimension to the game. Just follow food safety tips so you'll have only fond memories of the big game.


Chances are we all have a sports team we follow; it may be high school, college or professional, but we cheer them on. Let’s face it, we Americans are crazy about our sports teams. Tailgating has taken on a life of its own. Go to any college or professional game and the first thing you are likely to see are tents with TVs, grills and tables covered with food, ice chests holding drinks and a friendly game of corn hole being played.

These gatherings are definitely casual and can be hosted by anyone. The carnival atmosphere created by tailgaters brings pre-game competition alive as groups of fans try to outdo one another. At the Oklahoma State University tailgates I participate in, you will find trailers fully decked out with TVs and satellites, to the simple table under the trees with lawn chairs and an ice chest.

In fact, it seems that tailgating has a rich history that goes pretty far back. An old oil painting was found called "The Game," depicting smartly dressed tailgaters at the Yale/Harvard game in 1928.

If you want to start tailgating, what do you need to know? You want to be sure that your food stays safe and that you still have a good time.

Start by packing your vehicle with everything that will make you comfortable. Folding chairs, tables, cooking equipment like grills and utensils, trash sacks, and any games you might want such as hacky sack, corn hole, and horse shoes. You can even add flowers and candles in your teams colors, if you want it kick it up a notch. Just be careful with the candles and know the stadiums policy on open flames. These can add a sense of luxury to your tailgating location. Don't forget to take the weather into consideration and bring some form of protection from the elements. When that winter wind starts blowing at OSU football games, we start putting enclosures on our tents, and drag out the heaters.

Don't be afraid to decorate with a flair that screams, "We came to win!" Be creative and you will notice others around you getting creative as well. I have seen VW wagons, ambulances, vans, and trailers all decked out for tailgating.

The food is also why we tailgate. Join the ranks of the tailgating elite and use your creativity when planning the game day menu. Prepare a dish that will make the competition take notice. Grill burgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, sausages; cook and assemble fajitas, anything you wish.

You just have to remember to follow food safety tips. You can’t get so tied up in the tailgating and the football game that you get lax on food safety, or you could have a tailgate to remember, but not because of the good food, and game.

Always carry cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages, and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs, or containers of ice. Pack a thermometer in the cooler to make sure the food stays at 40 °F or below. Raw meat and poultry should be wrapped securely in a sealed plastic bag and stored away from other foods to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food.

Perishable cooked food such as luncheon meat, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads must be kept on ice, too.

Two ice chests are essential. Keep one for drinks and one for foods. This will keep your foods chilled until you are ready to cook or serve them, especially with guests utilizing the drink cooler more frequently.

Toss all refrigerated foods that have been unrefrigerated for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, toss them after one hour.

I love tailgating; it just brings a whole new dimension to the game. The comradery, sounds of laughter and conversation, smells, food; there is nothing like it. If you happen to be in Stillwater, come find me and say hi as I will be tailgating all season long at home games for my favorite college team and alma mater. Just look for the big Orange tent! And of course I say, “Go Pokes!”

For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at

Fire’em Up Jalapeno Poppers

8 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

16 whole jalapeno peppers with stems

8 slices bacon, cut in half crosswise


 At home prepare combine together the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and Cheddar cheese in a bowl until the mixture is thoroughly blended. Lay a jalapeno pepper onto a work surface, and cut a lengthwise sliver from the side of the pepper, exposing the seeds and white membrane. With the handle of a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds and membrane, leaving the hollow pepper, you can leave seeds if you want a lot more heat! Repeat for the rest of the peppers. Chop up the pepper slices, and mix into the cheese stuffing. Stuff each pepper with cheese mixture, and wrap each stuffed pepper in a half bacon slice. Secure with toothpicks.

Once at your tailgate site, preheat outdoor grill for medium heat, and lightly oil the grate.

Grill the poppers using indirect heat away from the flame until the peppers are hot and juicy and the bacon is browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Left over filling mixture can be used on crackers.

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS/Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS/Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609

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