Walton Gas employee Connie Bentley (pictured center, back row) and her family are gearing up for another season of cheering on the Bulldogs.

Dawg Days are back! The defending national champions will open the season on Sept. 3 at the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta before their home opener on Sept. 10. Wherever the Bulldogs play, it’s certain a party — tailgate, that is — is sure to happen.

Nationwide, tailgating has become a college “sport” all its own. And there’s no question that Bulldog Nation easily tops the national rankings in pre-game parties.

In fact, the annual Georgia-Florida matchup is known as “The World’s Biggest Cocktail Party” because of the tailgating prowess on display each year. (Speaking of, Walton Gas customers read here to find out how you can win tickets, airfare, ground transportation and accommodations for this year’s game in Jacksonville, Fla.).

To help rookies and veterans alike get in shape for the tailgating season ahead, Walton Gas employee Connie Bentley shares her top 10 tips and hacks for throwing the best parking lot party around.

  1. Train in the off-season.

“I’m always getting ready for football season by gathering tailgating supplies, recipes and ideas all year long,” says Connie. Save money by shopping for team spirit decor, paper products and other party supplies when you find them on sale in the off-season. Store items together in a clear plastic tote for easy access when football season rolls around. Tip: Don’t forget to be on the lookout for a distinctive decoration that will mark your party site so guests can easily find it among all the tailgaters.

  1. Have a game plan.

As any coach will tell you, a good game plan is essential for chalking one up in the win column. The same is true for succeeding as a tailgate party host. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Connie suggests. “There are plenty of good ideas already out there that you can adapt for your party.” Pinterest is filled with creative party plans to tailgate in style. Tip: Check out these Bulldog-themed favorites:

  1. Study the rule book.

UGA has specific rules about where and when you can tailgate on the Athens campus. There are also regulations regarding grills and other equipment you might want to bring. Know before you go by checking out the rules posted at https://georgiadogs.com/sports/2018/8/6/football-gameday-tailgating.aspx.

  1. Keep it simple.

Plan a menu that includes easy, make-ahead foods that are portable. Three to four homemade dishes should be the maximum. Fill in with purchased items. “It’s OK to have the Colonel make the fried chicken or tap your favorite BBQ place for a to-go order of pulled pork that can be slapped on a bun,” Connie says. Tip: Proclaim your party a potluck. Ask guests to pitch in by bringing a bag of chips or some other simple dish to add to the spread.

  1. Don’t skip the warm up

To be sure you’re warmed up for game day, pack the car the night before. Load up decorations, picnic supplies, nonperishable food, tables and chairs, etc. Don’t forget to pack: disposable tablecloth, plates, napkins, utensils, paper towels, trash bags and resealable plastic bags. Tip: Take along some extra gallon plastic bags that can be given to guests who forget to bring the required clear stadium bags.

  1. Know the power play.

If your tailgating experience includes a fan, television, blender — or anything else that requires electricity to operate, be sure to take along a portable generator. Read this information about portable generators that are ideal for tailgating.

  1. Score early.

The proper Bulldog tailgate gets underway no less than three hours before kickoff. That gives plenty of time for socializing, eating and doing a quick cleanup before heading into the stadium in time for the pregame festivities, including the hype video and the Redcoat Band performance. Tip: Don’t forget to pack trash bags or a pop-up trash can for easy cleanup, Connie reminds.

  1. Stay cool.

Game days in the early season can be HOT. If your tailgate party plans include refrigerated foods, take care to keep them properly cooled to avoid spoilage or, worse, making someone ill. Consider avoiding menu items that include mayonnaise or dairy products. Tip: Maximize cooler space by using frozen water bottles to keep food and other beverages cold. Then drink the cold bottles of water when they thaw.

  1. Finish strong.

Who says tailgates are strictly a pre-game affair? After the game clock ticks to 0:00, head back to the parking lot for round two of tailgating. Set out chairs, drinks and leftovers to nibble on while rehashing the game and waiting for traffic to clear.

  1. Register to win the Walton Gas Ultimate Fan Experience

Don’t miss the ultimate tailgating experience at the annual Georgia-Florida matchup. Walton Gas is giving all of our customers a chance to enter to win tickets, airfare, accommodations and ground transportation to attend this year’s game on Oct. 29 in Jacksonville, Fla. Find contest details and an entry form here for your chance to win. Deadline to enter is Sept. 23. Follow Walton Gas on Facebook for more contest details and announcements.