Tusk to Tail: Here’s how a Pro preps for more than 100 tailgaters

The week after a long road trip is always a bit hectic and tiring, but there is no rest for the weary this week. Texas A&M is coming to town with Johnny Crazy, and that means we will have the largest tailgate of the season.

As of Tuesday, we have confirmed over 100 guests. That number will likely grow closer to 130 before it is all said and done. So far the weather looks great. There is a small chance of rain during the game, but we hope it doesn’t interfere with the tailgating.

I try to spread my tailgate stops out over the week and group them together so it doesn’t take too much time on any given day or burn too much extra gas. On Wednesday, I stop by the cleaners and pick up the laundered table cloths, fill up the gas can with special no-ethanol high-octane fuel and run into the liquor store for some beer that I will personally contribute to the party.

Thursday I run into Sam’s Club for the specific items we can only procure from there, pick up the trailer from Greg Houser so it can be staged, and then meet Scott for the larger liquor store stop out at Crossover Liquor.

Fridays are the busiest, but include a planning lunch with the local Tusk to Tail guys, followed by a stop at Wal-Mart to buy all of the other food and supplies, and a quick run into Harp’s for the Mexican Velveeta I use in the cheese dip.

Friday evening I try to find time to do some early set up at the Tailgate, such as hanging banners and positioning tables and chairs. I use the rest of the evening preparing food as needed or loading up the trailer so it will be ready in the morning with little additional effort.

With a large crowd like this Saturday, we don’t even try to cook for so many. If you did, that is all you would be doing and that pretty much negates the reasons for hosting a tailgate. I will order 15 pounds of pulled pork, 15 pounds of chicken, and 10 pounds of brisket for our guests from The Whole Hog Cafe. Usual sides include a large pan of baked beans and smaller pans of slaw and potato salad.

We also hope to have some items from Powerhouse Seafood and Grill and My Brother’s Salsa on hand to round it out.

The late kickoff also presents other challenges. Some guests will arrive early and need to eat lunch, but the majority of guests slam the tailgate about two hours before game time. To help even things out, I start the cheese dip fairly early, and grill some bratwursts to keep the guys happy.

I also plan to ask Sean Casey to pick up a large nugget tray from Chick fil-A around noon on his way in from the airport. Sean is picking up Chris May, our gracious host from last week’s trip to Philadelphia and Rutgers. It is always great to have Chris on campus with us when he flies in for the big games.

The majority of food, including our catered items, will be ready to go by 3 p.m. That is when the volume of guests really picks up. As always, we ask our guests to bring some drinks to share and a side item, dip, or dessert. That helps keep the cost down and insures a variety of items on the tables. With proper planning, this should get us to game time.

After the game, all we have to do is pack, clean up, and get ready for our next home game against South Carolina.