Tips for a Winning Tailgate Picnic

~ by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Certified Wine Educator, Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits ~

Visitors and summer residents coming to the island for a weekend getaway are jubilant to the prospects of warm sunshine and calm winds. The 42nd Annual Daffodil Weekend, sponsored by the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce, is a much-anticipated celebration of Spring.

Of the activities planned for the weekend one of the favorites is the Weekend Antique Car Parade and (drumroll, please) The Daffodil Tailgate Picnic. The charming village of ‘Sconset is the backdrop to this afternoon fête on Saturday, April 30. ‘Sconset’s main street is transformed into the ultimate small town soirée with lavish and creative picnic spreads and presentations. All picnics are eligible to win coveted ribbons awarded by the Chamber of Commerce’s Judging Committee. While most people think you need to have a car in the parade in order to participate in the competition, this is not the case. There is a separate category for Tailgate Picnic Winner/Non-Car. (TIP: If you plan to participate in this category, make sure to arrive early in ‘Sconset to set up your tailgate in the best spot for maximum exposure and space.) What does one need to do in order to be amongst the top ribbon-winning contenders?

Here is a quick and easy guide to help you in creating your tailgate masterpiece, including tips on how to avoid a few road bumps at your ‘Sconset Tailgate and get the Judge’s attention for all the right reasons.

To get things started, you will want to come up with an overall theme for your tailgate party. It cannot be stressed enough how important this is for your success. Your theme needs to be very specific and direct, not a broad category. Everything (and I mean everything) that you create for this tailgate will focus on coming back to this one major theme that must be consistent throughout every tiny detail.

Think of it like the parts of a bicycle wheel. There are several parts to a bicycle wheel that on their own would probably end up at the Madaket Mall. When well maintained and put together properly, the sum of these pieces will have you on the ‘Sconset Loop bike path in no time to take part in the tailgate festivities.

The Wheel Itself

Hub: This is the focal point to your overlying theme and the axle that everything in your tailgate picnic revolves around.

Rim: The circumference of your rim depends on the scope of your tailgate and will eventually form in the shape of a hoop. In addition to the important function of holding the ‘tire’ (which we discuss later) onto the wheel, the rim also serves as the anchor for spokes (see below).

Spokes: The rim is connected to the hub by several spokes, which are important critical details that are part of your overall theme, under tension. While you don’t want to over complicate your tailgating efforts, conventional bicycle wheels for single rider bikes commonly have 28, 32 or 36 spokes (or details as in your case). You may choose to have fewer details that would result in an aerodynamic advantage (as you race to collect your ribbon). However, a reduction in the number of components would result in a larger section of the ‘rim’ being unsupported, which would require a stronger, bolder, and heavier border to your theme. Spokes distributed evenly across the circumference of the rim are considered more durable and forgiving as they hold the theme of the tailgate together. Some wheel designs also locate the spokes unequally into the rim, but do create an overall balance.

Examples of spokes could include, but not limited to:

  • Music/playlist and how it is performed or amplified
  • The vessel in which you are cooling/serving your liquid refreshments
  • Use of a tent/pergola/umbrella that envelopes your staging area
  • Seating options (if you choose to offer this, it MUST be part of your overall experience incorporated into your theme
  • Themed games
  • Food spread presentation and any on-site cooking demonstrations
  • Additional flooring options other than the green grass

The Tire

This is what will help you to keep the momentum of your tailgate at whatever speed you choose and enable you to combat any unforeseen terrain ahead. By itself, the “tire” is incapable of holding air. It is open in the center and has two edges that allow it to be mounted onto the “rim,” which holds the outlying details together. But you can’t pull off a winning tailgate without it to protect your event and enable better tailgating performance.

A perfect example is to consider what type of drinking vessels will you be using. While Mason jars look cute, they are heavy and can sweat in the palm of someone’s hand when filled with a cold beverage. When that jar slips out of your favorite cousin’s hand and shatters all over Main Street in ‘Sconset, the smashing sound of it hitting the pavement will draw eyes to your party for all the wrong reasons.

Avoid this type of mishap by using Govino glasses. These reusable, recyclable and shatterproof drinking cups are perfect for tailgating. They come in various styles and sizes, making their products available for whatever theme and drinks you have chosen.

TIP: Use the Govino glasses at your next Nobadeer Beach Bonfire or give them as a gift to your guests for them to remember your winning day at the 2016 Daffodil Picnic Tasting Awards.

Also keep in mind that the weather on the Grey Lady is sometimes unforgiving to your best laid plans. Make sure to have a back up plan for high winds (batten down the hatches) or the sprinkle of a rain shower that will cause your decorations (and perhaps your spirits) to melt.

The Inner Tube:

Consider this to be the life of the party. This is the air that makes your tailgate picnic breathe and come to life, which includes the people who are part of your event. It is very important that everyone in your group is on the same page and part of the master plan. Otherwise, that one small “hole” can cause the entire event to deflate.

Be the congenial host or hostess when the judges or others come to look at what you have created and explain to them all the inner workings of your artistry. Sharing a splash of vino or a morsel of food will help to create goodwill and hopefully more votes!

Lastly, here are some key points to remember for the end of your triumphant tailgate event.

  • Recycle: Be sure to dispose of all your glass bottles, cans, & plastic wear accordingly.
  • Pack it in, Pack it out. Remember to bring trash bags (and perhaps a discreet trash bag container that follows your theme) in order to dispose of waste responsible. These will make it much easier for your tailgate clean up, when all your friends have headed home for a nap, and will help you keep your area spic and span when the judges come through.

Whatever your theme, remember the most important thing is to be consistent throughout each part of the tailgate party, including costumes (hats optional), types of libations, food selections and decor. This is where having a narrow focus on the road in front of you is much more advantageous than a wide lens looking at all the scenery on the way to the winner’s podium.