Food, fun, and fanfare aren’t just for football season
For Jared Palermo, the art of Buffett tailgating doesn’t start in the Hawaiian aisle at the party store a week before the concert, but rather in the dark and cold nights of winter months before. It’s then that most Parrot Heads will start dreaming of summer, but for him—a 14-year concertgoer—there’s a fine art to planning the perfect parking lot party. It starts in his garage in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where his woodworking workshop has wielded such handicrafts as the Wheel of Shots and five-foot-tall Drink-O, a takeoff on Plinko from “The Price is Right.”
“I start planning my theme as soon as the tickets go on sale in February,” says the 38-year-old. “Each game takes several weeks to complete, but some are worth repeating—the spinning wheel is now in its fifth rotation, pun intended.”
Stockpiling hard-to-find Jell-O flavors like watermelon for shots is a year-round affair, but next year Palermo plans on returning from out-of-the-box tastes like pina colada back to classics like cherry and grape. And as for those margaritas? “Oh, yeah, those are essential every year, along with an open mind and the attitude to share, and pace yourself,” he says. “The ingenuity blows me away every time, and whether it’s the displays or just how much people will share their snacks and drinks, it’s awesome. It’s like walking around in a huge Pinterest board.”
So what’s OK to bring and what’s the black beachball list?
Palermo’s must-do’s include bottled water, chips, sandwiches (grilling is tricky for those hosting games due to multitasking), a canopy for shade or rain shelter, a flowered shirt or grass skirt (with extras to give away to new friends), and hand sanitizer and extra toilet paper for port-a-potties later in the afternoon. He’s even seen some conversation-starters like people who have live parrots or snakes on their shoulders.
While live animals aren’t always an option for most, you can party like one—even if you start small. Here are some pro tips to get you started. We’ve also included a few ways to bring Buffett to the game!
Share with Your Neighbors
Sticking with a theme is easy when it comes to Jimmy since there’s no shortage of anything tropical. Bringing snacks to share like Goldfish or gummy sharks, and hamburgers are a good way to start up a convo.
Don’t have a tiki hut? No worries, man—stash a party table underneath your canopy and put a few grass skirts around it for extra flair (and create some more shade for the coolers).
If making new friends is your goal, you don’t have to stay put—make the rounds and get some rounds at others’ tables, and bring along a “selfie” frame decorated with surfboards, flowers, or pictures of flamingos. Everyone will just introduce themselves, with cameras in hand.
Use What You Have
Pirate flags for antennae or car fins for the roof are a good (and inexpensive) way to start small; or for the slightly more intrepid, building a shorter “t” shape to stand up in a truck bed with a bucket for a crow’s nest and white sheets is the perfect canvas for a pirate parking adventure.
Bring the Fun
Classic lawn games like baggo or ladder ball will work on pavement, but the limbo keeps in rhythm with the Buffett bonanza. All you need are two people to hold a stick, a third to wiggle through, and some tunes; others will follow.
Kiddie pools go far, both for cooling off or for keeping beer cool if it’s filled with ice. Plus, ice evaporates for easy cleanup.
Don’t Forget Your V Card
If it’s your first time at Buffett, don’t forget to carry on fan traditions and make a sign with your “V card”—you’ll get plenty of freebies from others, whether it’s shots, beads, or even just a bottled water to help pace yourself.
Show Your Team Spirit, with Jello
Just because you use cookie cutters doesn’t mean your Jell-O shots have to be. Go upscale and layer flavors so you get an ombre effect with the colors of your favorite team, or get a shape cutter for balls or jerseys and draw on numbers or laces.
Always Go Hawaiian
Hawaiian Shirts Getting into the spirit of your favorite QB is easy and everyone will want to take selfies with cardboard cutouts of pigskin princes in flowery shirts instead of jerseys. Putting a Hawaiian shirt on Tom Brady, for instance, puts a smile on everyone’s face.
Kick Up Your Cheeseburger
Those cheeseburgers in paradise are easier at home, so why not ramp it up with all of the accouterments (ketchup, mustard, etc.) fashioned into a burger bar, with the drinks alongside? Pigskin potato skins are also good for some extra pop—twice bake ‘em and pipe on sour cream laces.