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Want to host a great tailgate? Follow these tips on meal prep, games

Penn State alum Don Montina grills up some burgers as he tailgates with fellow Penn State fans and Michigan fans outside of Michigan Stadium before the Penn State game in September 2016.
Penn State alum Don Montina grills up some burgers as he tailgates with fellow Penn State fans and Michigan fans outside of Michigan Stadium before the Penn State game in September 2016. Centre Daily Times, file

Dear Readers: Eight years ago, I started this column as a small-town teenager and I’m excited to be back again connecting with the Centre County community as an evolving young woman who is living in New York City pursuing her passions in the media industry.

In my monthly column, I will give advice from my perspective as a young adult. I am by no means an expert or psychologist, but I welcome questions from anyone who is interested in advice I can offer. I hope from reading this column that you will learn some things, here and there, that you can bring into your daily life or share with others. I want to use this platform to create conversation between one another.

All questions that I answer are and will be questions I have received from others, all being real-life situations. Do not hesitate to send me questions — information on who is asking them will be kept confidential. You can send questions to me at

I look forward to hearing from you.

Dear Emily: This is my first time hosting a tailgate. Since I’m new to this, I want my tailgate to be fun and with great food. What tips do you suggest for me in order to prepare the best way possible for the first home football game?

Dear Tailgater: You better be prepared with extra hotdogs because it’s only a successful tailgate if you have enough for the college students who walk past aching to find someone to welcome them in and send them off with full bellies. I would say the top three essentials for any tailgate or party are food, environment and people. This is how it works: if you feed the people well with unlimited food and drinks it will create a really special environment that results in an amazing tailgate. That said, let’s start with the food — the most important part.

Prepping for the tailgate is essential. I have been to many amazing tailgates that you can tell are well loved and thought out. Take an evening to prep all your food. The simple things in life make people the happiest — vegetable and fruit trays, hotdogs and hamburgers, chips and dip. I would recommend shopping in bulk because there is no such thing as too many beers and burgers. Buy a few coolers and load them up the night before heading out. September games are likely to still be hot — don’t forget to buy a couple cases of water. Make a list and set out for what you need.

Don’t forget condiments and utensils. When you’re in the store, look for the items on your list but other things may catch your eye such as barbecue chips, cocktail shrimp and umbrella decorations for drinks. Prep as much as you can prior to the game so that you can ensure that you, too, have a bit of fun. The more food you have, the more comfortable everyone will be.

Once the food is in order, it’s time to focus on the experience of those attending your tailgate. Again, the simple things in life make people happiest. Come prepared with lawn chairs, throw blankets and tables because I can ensure you they will be used. Have certain tables dedicated to the food and a speaker that hopefully will be playing “Sweet Caroline” and some Jimmy Buffet. Then, have a table dedicated to fun. There are so many games that groups of people can play simply just by circling around the table. Conversations will be had, drinks will be spilled and endless laughs will be shared. Also, bring a set of cards that can be stepped on, ripped up and potentially lost. Now, think of a game that you played when you were growing up such as Jenga, bad mitten or red rover. OK? Have you thought of it? Great. Now, bring it to life in the adult form. If it was Jenga, then buy big pieces of wood and make a life size game of it. If it was bad mitten then bring a few large colorful inflatable volleyballs and have them floating around all day. There are so many cheap ways to keep tailgaters entertained and happy.

Finally, bring something that will distinguish you from other tailgaters so that those trying to find your location can easily spot you from afar. Whether it be a flag, balloons or a cardboard statue of the Nittany Lion with a pompom in hand, these articles will help your mom or former college roommates find where you are located quicker especially since the phone service on game day is weak at best.

Dear Emily: What is the best attire to wear to a September home football game?

Dear Tailgate Consumer: Tailgate season is upon us in Happy Valley and it’s not an surprise to say that Mother Nature will likely be very weather confused or be quick to throw us a curve ball on game day. That said, come prepared.

Layers. Wear many. If the forecast says there are supposed to be thunderstorms so it wouldn’t hurt to have a rain jacket and light coat to tie around your waist as the temperature and clouds change throughout the day.

Pockets. Have pockets to keep your sunglasses, sunscreen stick, Penn State face sticker, ticket and poncho in. If you don’t have pockets, well, then, pick up a fanny pack. Not only are they practical but they’re currently very on trend.

Afternoon kick offs are always odd balls because if you are starting your tailgating early the grass might be damp and your shoulders might be chilly so be prepared.

Don’t forget. Shoes are better when they are dirty and I can ensure you that you’ll be doing a lot of walking especially in areas that are very gravely or dirty so wear a pair of shoes that are comfortable but can sustain some extra love from the Penn State lots.

Emily Chertow is a Penn State graduate who grew up in State College. Questions for her column can be sent to Information on who is asking them will be kept confidential.