Tailgating party essentials

Two weekends ago, a crowd of college football fans swarmed around The Monkey Basket in Helena seeking new tailgating ideas.

Owner Judy Ellington gave them what they asked for in the form of the newest party platters and chili mixes. Ellington said there’s a reason tailgating is a Southern staple.

“I think it’s the South — it’s good food, good friends and hospitality,” Ellington said. “It’s football in the South at its best.”

Tailgating at its best means color coordination. Stores like The Monkey Basket and Chelsea Lane in Chelsea get swamped with football enthusiasts this time of year.

“Everybody is always looking for something new,” said Chelsea Lane owner Lisa Sisk. “I look around the store and see at least six shelves of Alabama and Auburn items. But when it comes to football fans, even tacky-cute works if it has their team colors.”

Tacky–cute is fine by Sisk. She gets a great laugh out of some of the items she sells at her store; one of the more popular items this season — Alabama and Auburn pumpkins.

Sisk also sells items from a variety of other schools including Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State and Kentucky. Now that you know how to be a great hostess this football season, don’t forget to be the perfect party guest.

Ellington said it’s all in returning the favor. She said guests should always repay the Southern hospitality, never showing up to any tailgating event empty handed.

“When you are going to someone’s house for the game or to their tailgating spot, you should always take a hostess gift,” she said.

Ellington suggests the best gifts are school-themed, even if the hostess is a fan of the Crimson Tide and you cheer, “War Eagle.”

Go for the unique. Ellington offers up jersey–shaped napkins, colorful party platters and even team hot sauces.

For ideas on what to wear to your next tailgating event, see Miss Shelby Style’s column on page 5C.