Ultimate Tailgating — Tips on throwing the premiere pre-game party

April 2023 View more

NMAG1012_EntertainingRutgers, Princeton, the University of Kentucky, and Yale all lay claim to holding the first official tailgate. And, Green Bay Packers lore says the term “tailgating” originated in Green Bay, Wisconsin when picnickers backed their pick-up trucks right up to the football field.

No matter where the tradition began, it has spread just like the popularity of the Weber Grill that’s often fired up next to an open tailgate in the stadium parking lot.

A Naperville Tradition

The outdoor pre-game party is just as attractive in Naperville. Luanne Roth and her family have been tailgating for as long as she can remember. Roth graduated from the University of Illinois, where she and her sorority sisters gathered for pre-game fun before entering Memorial Stadium to cheer on the Fighting Illini. Roth’s husband played high school and college ball, and the couple went on to raise four athletic children who caught the tailgate bug. “It’s a beautiful way to spend a Saturday afternoon,” said Roth.

A much larger family is building on a tradition of tailgating in downtown Naperville. Adrian Aldrich, director of alumni relations at North Central College, says Cardinal’s football fans show their team pride by organizing chili cook-offs or setting up elaborate breakfasts before kickoff. Tailgating at NCC is reserved for parents and alums only, according to Aldrich. “It’s family members taking care of each other.” Jim Godo, assistant vice president of marketing at North Central, says the popularity of tailgating has grown since 2002, along with the success of the now nationally ranked football team, coached by John Thorne. “The college really committed itself to growing a successful football program, and as part of the commitment, we wanted to create a better atmosphere around that program. The two have gone hand in hand,” said Godo.

Throwing the Ultimate Pre-game Party

Tailgating isn’t only for the college crowd. Some area high school students have also jumped on the tailgating bandwagon with less elaborate get-togethers. Joliet Catholic High School has a long tradition of tailgating, according to Roth. She’s been organizing tailgates for years, and has a few tips. Roth emails parents, who volunteer to bring burgers to grill, sandwiches, condiments, and drinks. Roth always orders sugar cookies decorated in school colors. Other tailgating suggestions: pack ice and beverages in easy to move coolers, bring snacks that are easy to store, and large recyclable bags to collect your garbage. “The spirit of tailgaters starts at the grill and seems to add a lot to the team’s energy and enthusiasm, and provides a great, memorable experience for non-players,” said Dan Stadt, Neuqua Valley High school class of 2013 counselor.

So, whether you’re a veteran tailgater or a novice, tailgating enthusiasts all seem to agree, there’s no better way to enjoy the game day, regardless of the final score.

Tailgating Treats

One of the keys to pulling off a successful tailgate party is preparing the best food. Here is one of Luanne Roth’s tried and true recipes for terrific tailgates.

Hilltopper Hotties            


1 stick of margarine, softened

6 green onions, chopped

3 tablespoons Poppy seeds

½ cup mustard



• Mix all of above ingredients to make a sauce

• Buy half-dollar size buns and cut them in half

• Spread the top half with sauce

• Put a piece of ham, and a piece of Swiss cheese
on each bun

• Place tin foil on cookie sheet

• Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes


* Easy to make ahead of time, they can be served warm or at room temperature