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Tips for beginners

Time for tailgating

If you think “pigskin” is something to eat at a tailgate party, you might want to listen up.

As we turn the cool corner into fall, and the football season heats up, tailgating skills are something to cultivate.

We consulted experts from some of Indiana’s top tailgating venues for what they would recommend to newbies.

Know the rules

Some venues have designated spots for tailgating; others allow it anywhere. Some don’t allow alcohol or charcoal grills or bringing food and/or beverages into the stadium. Tailgating isn’t an option in the lot closest to the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium – the major party is at a 500-space lot at South and Pennsylvania streets, where spaces are sold by Blue Crew, Indy’s largest tailgating club, for $190 a season. At other lots, tailgating is up to the lot manager, according to the Crew’s website,

Show up early

Three to five hours before it’s time to leave for the stadium is not too early, says Jacob Benedict, a 2007 grad who’s president of the Fort Wayne chapter of the University of Notre Dame’s alumni club. Going early to his alma mater’s games means being able to park for free on the street – instead of paying $20 or $40 in a lot. And it gives plenty of time for cooking, socializing and tear-down.

Drink in moderation

Phil Maurizi, a University of Saint Francis staff member and serial Cougars tailgater, says the only time the university allows alcohol outside the stadium is for tailgate parties. “Just because you may be drinking, you’re not in a bar. It’s a family event.”

Weather the weather

Fall is typically cool, but the sun can still get hot in southern Indiana venues such as Indiana University, and South Bend is notorious for sudden storms. Benedict recommends packing a bag with a hooded sweatshirt, a light shirt and shorts, your preferred rain gear and an extra pair of socks and comfortable shoes should your first ones get soggy. And don’t forget a blanket.

Keep it clean

Some venues look like Times Square after New Year’s Eve post-tailgate; Maurizi says it’s better to haul your debris home in plastic trash bags. Or better yet, recycle: “There are recycling bins specifically set up around the campus because, as a Franciscan institution, we stress respecting creation,” he says. “There are actually people who go around (the tailgating areas) collecting bottles and plastics and cans.”


You can use your cellphone to meet up with others in your group. But be aware, Benedict says, that calls may not go through because of towers jammed by thousands of people trying to make calls from one spot. Confirm a time and meeting spot in advance or make your calls on the drive.

Gear up

Tailgaters swear by must-haves, from chairs in a sling-over-the-shoulder bag or an easy-to-set up canopy to a favorite cornhole game. Maurizi likes a small propane grill, and Benedict loves a cooler on wheels to roll from party to party. The Colts’ tailgating site urges bringing a bottle opener/corkscrew, radio or TV, cellphone charger, bungee cord, fire extinguisher, sunblock, hand sanitizer, water, ice, first-aid kit and – lest you be stranded until the next home game – jumper cables.