Putting Together a Winning Game Plan for Your Next Football Watching PartyDec 12, 2017 12:16AM ● By Melanie Heisinger
By Aly YaleThere’s nothing like football in the fall - especially here in Texas. It dominates our Fridays, our Sundays and, if we’re college fans, even our Saturdays. And for most of us, it’s not just a game.
Sure, we want our teams to win, but for Texans, football is also about fun. About family. About coming together as a community. And tailgating, cooking out and throwing great game day parties is just how we celebrate that.
Preparing to PartyWhether hosting weekly watch parties or a giant Super Bowl throw-down, according to Cassandra Bass of Imperial Events and Catering in Arlington, there’s one thing that’s of prime importance: Planning ahead. This, she says, will allow you to “actually be a guest” at your own event. “Remember that you yourself want to do as little as possible day of,” says Bass.
But starting that planning? That’s only possible with an accurate headcount - and that all starts with invites.
For these, Kathy Cox Mills-Hood, owner of Cherry on Top Catering and Events in Fort Worth, recommends going the digital route. “Evite.com has everything you need to create the perfect invitation,” she says. “All you have to do is to put in your information and your potential guests’ email addresses and press send.”
Sherrill Osborne, who owns Over the Top Events and Consulting in Mansfield, prefers printed invites, as they’re more customizable and creative. But, she says, digital ones are a great option if you’re strapped for time. “Digital invites are inexpensive and are convenient for everyone involved,” says Osborne. “The number of responses seems to be higher, and people tend to respond in a timelier manner.”
You can also go the Facebook route for invites, according to Bass, who says the site’s event pages are a great place to interact with guests, send messages and even set up reminders.
Once invites are out and RSVPs have started to roll in, it’s time to get planning. Osborne says there are three must-haves to cover - comfortable seating, a large central TV screen and plenty of food and drinks.
Making Your MenuAside from the game itself, food is arguably the most important part of any game day gathering. But according to experts, you don’t want to be cooking or prepping much the day of.
“It is best to execute your plan of action little by little a few days ahead of time,” says Osborne. “On the day of the event, you should only have to worry about completing hot food items on the menu and setting the table. All cold items can be made a day or two ahead of time.”
Bass says appetizers are a great food that you can “forget” while you enjoy the party. “Prepare food you can forget,” she says. “An assortment of appetizers can be a meal in itself - chicken wings, meatball sliders, burger sliders, chips and dips or a simple baked potato bar with all the fixings. You don’t want to spend all your time in the kitchen, so foods that you can replenish in between commercials are ideal.”
Osborne says to be careful not to run out of those apps too early, though. “Football games, especially the Super Bowl, can last a long time due to the commercial breaks and timeouts,” she says. “You will want to have finger foods that can last the entire duration. We always advise to initially only set up half of your stockpile of appetizers and save the other half to replenish during halftime.” Crockpot foods are also a good choice, she says, as you can “set it and forget it.”
A few tips for preventing any menu-related problems? Ask guests ahead of time about any food allergies, and always plan for 10 to 15 percent more than you think you need. “Many people tend to forget to RSVP, and you never want to run out of food,” says Osborne.
According to Mills-Hood, who recommends setting “themes” for menus, meatballs, mini sausages, wings, finger sandwiches and dips are all great choices for game day food items. But be careful not to forget the dessert course, she says. “During the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth quarter, bring out something sweet for your guests to have before the game ends and they head home,” she says. Cupcakes, cookies and individual portions of banana pudding or strawberry shortcake are all winners, she says. But the best choice? A chocolate fountain. “If you don’t have a chocolate fountain, no worries, a crockpot works beautifully,” she says. “My favorite thing to use is white chocolate and food coloring that represents your favorite team.” Be sure to have foods to dip in the fountain, too, like marshmallows, fruit and other sweet treats on skewers, she says.
Check out this tasty recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip to try at your next tailgate.
Festive FunWhile the game will serve as the prime source of entertainment, it’s important to remember not all your guests are going to be football fans - especially if there are kids invited. Planning activities for these partygoers, not to mention all your guests during halftime, commercial breaks and other in-between periods, is crucial.
“It is important that you try to incorporate a fun activity to keep the entire crowd involved,” says Osborne. “Some activities that I like to plan for when children are on the invite list is football bingo, coloring pages and a few outdoor yard games. We like to have games that relate to the sport. There should also be fun prizes for the winner.”
Bass suggests having a football on hand to throw around the yard, and square boards, which use a 10-by-10 grid to let guests guess the game’s final score, can add a little competition to the mix. “No game day party is complete without the latest copy of Madden 17,” she says. “It’s a great way to pass time before and after game.”
Lawn games are a good option, too, as long as the weather is right, says Mills-Hood. “Go outside at the half and play cornhole,” she says. “Tape one of the team’s mascots on one board and the other team’s mascot on the other board. You can also play giant Jenga, lawn Twister - using the four colors of the teams in the game - giant ring toss or ladder golf.”
Make sure to have plenty of entertainment scheduled for halftime, too, says Osborne, as this can be a pretty lengthy break. “During halftime, you can make a game out of the performance,” she says. “Before halftime, have everyone write down three songs that they think the performer will perform. Whoever guesses correctly or is most correct gets a prize. For the children this would be a perfect opportunity to judge outdoor games, which could include a football catching game, a hand-eye coordination game, a speed game or any other football-related game. For some kids, a fun halftime event would be for them to put on their own halftime show for the adults. They can spend the first half of the game creating their routine and then present it during halftime.”
DIY DécorFor game day parties, the easiest way to decorate is to head to your local Party City, which Osborne says offers items for all the current NFL teams. But if spending loads on décor isn’t in the cards, there are plenty of ways to DIY it, too.
“We have made footballs out of tissue paper and streamer,” says Osborne. “If you are not looking to decorate the entire house, you can stick to decorating your table or kitchen counters. You can mold a football out of a cheese spread or chip dip. You can enhance the appearance of your food by making it look like footballs, turf, referees, team logos and symbols.”
Mills-Hood suggests using artificial turf as a tablecloth to add some festive flair. You can find it at Home Depot or Lowes. “Get creative and paint the yard lines and goal lines and purchase goalposts to represent the playing field,” she says. “If you are really creative, paint the teams’ names in the end zones.”
Another great DIY project? Football-themed utensil holders. “Get empty cans, like a soup can, take off the label and wrap it with brown paper to represent a football,” says Mills-Hood. “Cut out white pieces of paper to represent the stitching and glue them on. They make cute utensil vessels.”
Ahead of the GameIn the end, experts say a great party all comes down to planning. Prep ahead of time, plan plenty of fun activities and serve delicious food, and even the busiest of hosts can throw the perfect game day celebration.
“We all have that procrastination bug,” says Bass. “But in order to have an event that you can actually be a guest at, planning before the last minute is key.”