Football Tailgating

To many sports fans, there’s only one season – Football. Here in South Mississippi, where the weather stays relatively warm through at least Thanksgiving, tailgating takes on a life of its own. Pine Belt fans have a variety of tailgating opportunities when they cheer on the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. But other state universities – Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Jackson State, and others – each have their own tailgating traditions.

At Southern Miss, there is the opportunity for great music during pre-game concerts and activities at Spirit Park before each home game. Tailgating in The District and other parts of campus is also a football tradition.

No matter which team you plan on cheering for, here is a playbook of tailgating tips that might be helpful.

Sunscreen, Stay Hydrated

If your children are with you, they are more than likely excited about being outside, and running around with friends. Just make sure they don’t get too hot and stay hydrated. It’s probably not a bad idea to have them rest from time to time. Heat and activities can wear you down quickly.

  • The sun might not be sizzling like it was during summer, but even under a cloud-covered sky in South Mississippi it’s easy to get scorched while tailgating. If you’re hosting a tailgating bash, have plenty of sunscreen on hand for your guests and don’t forget to protect yourself. Be sure and dress for the weather. Dehydration is another potential tailgating villain.
  • Make sure everyone drinks a lot of water. Sugary drinks, juice, and alcohol don’t give you the energy boost you’ll need to make it through the fourth quarter.
  • Mild dehydration symptoms include headache, dizziness, sleepiness, strong-smelling urine, and thirst. Drink water to battle dehydration. Drinking water in small amounts throughout the day helps guard against dehydration.
  • If you’re sweating over a grill, you’ll need to be particularly vigilant about consuming water.

Food Safety, Grilling

After you’ve taken precautions to keep your body safe, you need to heed warnings to keep your food safe. Tailgating and food poisoning are not a winning combination. Because tailgating and grilling go hand-in-hand, be careful to prevent cross contamination between meats.

Clint Taylor, Food and Nutrition coordination at Forrest General Hospital, offers the following tips:

“If you are outside holding food without any type of temperature control, you only want to hold the food for up to four hours,” Taylor said. “After that, discard it.” Always remember, “When in doubt, throw it out.” It’s better to be safe than sorry!

“For cold food, you can hold the food for up to six hours, as long as it never reaches 70 degrees. Once it does, then discard it.”

Taylor suggests for cold items, such as potato salad and coleslaw, which contain mayonnaise, only take out what you need and keep the rest in the ice chest.

When grilling, Taylor said foods need to be cooked thoroughly. For ground beef, you need to cook to 155 degrees, poultry to 165 degrees and seafood to 145 degrees.


  • Pack raw meat in individual containers and place them in an ice-packed cooler until they are ready for the grill.
  • Wash utensils, cutting boards and other surfaces every time raw meat comes in contact with them.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching raw meat, and dry them with paper towels (not dishtowels).
  • Have lots of paper plates on hand, so you never make the mistake of placing grilled meat on a plate that held raw meat.

“Personal hygiene is the most important part of food safety,” he said. “Always wash your hands after handling foods.”


It’s also important to properly pack a cool. Follow these tips:

  • Start with a cool, clean cooler. Use water-tight, reusable containers to store food items. Pace any bagged items on top of the ice layer.
  • Pack the cooler full so no warm air sneaks in.
  • Add cans and bottles to the bottom of your cooler first, where they’ll stay cooler longer.
  • Add a layer of ice over your drinks and food containers, ensuring ice falls between any crevices.
  • Chill everything first especially adults beverages and perishable food item.
  • Designate one cooler to store extra bags of ice so you’ll always have enough on hand to keep raw meat cold.
  • Keep drinks in a separate cooler.
  • Freeze water bottles to use in place of ice in coolers so you have cold water to drink after they melt.


  • Slice and pack burger toppings in advance.
  • Fill a six pack holder with favorite hot sauces and other condiments.
  • Pack a mini first-aid kit in an old prescription bottle.
  • Bring a large plastic tub to haul back dirty dishes.
  • Use an empty laundry detergent dispenser as a hand-washing station.
  • Hang a paper towel roll using a bungee cord from the tent struts.


  • You never think it will happen to you, but even veteran tailgaters need to be prepared for the worst.
  • When you’re grilling, make sure you have a fire extinguisher in close
  • If you’re grilling with coals, be sure to douse them with water and let them cool.
  • Packing a first aid kit is always a good idea. You never know when a friendly game of Frisbee or a sharp knife might lead to a cut or injury.


You want to be a considerate tailgater. Bring trash bags and make sure you pick up all the trash from your area and dispose of it properly. Leave the area better than you found it.

Checklist of Items Not to Forget

  • spatulas
  • bottle openers
  • tongs
  • can opener
  • toothpicks
  • wooden skewers
  • basting brush
  • mini flashlight
  • trash bags
  • paper towels
  • wet wipes
  • hand sanitizer
  • sunscreen
  • poncho
  • plastic zip bag
  • Sharpie
  • masking tape

And remember, no matter the outcome, be gracious in both winning and defeat.