Ah, the tailgate. Fall mornings spent in impromptu living rooms arranged in the beds of pickup trucks, afternoons playing Hacky Sack, entire days spent with radio blaring and laughter soaring. It seems there’s always some reason to drop the tailgate or open the hatch and let weekend freedom roar. To gather the crew, crack some brew, munch on some nachos and cheer like the game depended on it…because it does.
The tailgate party is almost as American a pastime as football or baseball itself. It’s also a day when everyone wants to stand out. Painted faces, wild costumes, creative gaming and pickup football games are kings. Now, imagine if you will, among all those olfactory and tasty memories, what a stand-out experience a solar-powered tailgate party would be!
When you think about it, it makes sense. You have an entire day spent outside cooking, eating, drinking and talking – all things best done under the sun. And it’s surprisingly easy to do! You can incorporate solar power into any aspect of a tailgate party, from brews to brats to burgers. Sound a little strange? Here’s how you do it.
Ingredient number one for a successful tailgate party is beer. How else could we accept such a voice-shattering, body-beleaguering plunge into weekend fanaticism? If you were truly die-hard, you could spend the weeks leading up to the big game honing your solar home brewing skills. But if you’re in the majority – a beer purchaser, not producer – there are a number of solar-powered brewskies available.
Among your choices for solar-powered beer are microbrew staples like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Anderson Valley breweries. Even American beer giant Anheuser-Busch uses a small amount of solar power. If you don’t drink or aren’t into these brewers, have no fear, your time will come. The solar-powered beer movement is growing. 2009 saw the world’s first solar-powered beer festival come to life in Colorado, where over 30 brewers showed up to peddle their green, intoxicating wares. Even Michelob (Anheuser-Busch) was there.
Second to beer on any tailgate list is munchies: edibles, junk food, decadent and delicious snacks. Chief among mainstream, sustainable snacks are SunChips from Frito-Lay. SunChips’ Modesto plant uses a 400-acre solar thermal farm to heat the boiler water that cooks the wheat and heats the oil to make SunChips. Even better (and growing fast) are Kettle Chips, made in Salem, Oregon. Kettle Foods is home to one of the largest solar arrays in Oregon, cranking out enough solar power to make 250,000 bags of Kettle brand chips each year. They also recycle used cooking oil into biodiesel and donate time, money and 100,000 pounds of potatoes and chips to their local community every year.
If buying solar snacks is not enough for you, make your own. Steaks, burgers, brats, nachos – just about anything can be cooked in the sun. Sure it’ll take longer, but it’s a tailgate party – you’ve got all day! Nachos can cook in no more than a half hour since all you’re doing is melting cheese. Refried beans shouldn’t take much longer. Meat will take quite a bit longer, but simply get it in the sun in the morning and be ready for an afternoon lunch.
How do you build a solar cooker? It can be as simple as a reflective surface (say, a foil-lined cardboard box), a black kettle or pot and a clear plastic bag or pane of glass to hold the heat in. There are many easy ways to build a solar cooker. Look here and here for some examples. Or you could just buy a solar cooker for the occasion. The Tulsi Hybrid Solar Cooker is about as fancy as it gets at this point. It even has electrical backup built in for those cloudy fall days or impatient burger-eaters. Although, you might need to bring a battery to power the backup grill if necessary.
This is a bit more difficult, but you may be able to find solar-powered meat as well. For instance, in Oregon, there’s a family farm that uses solar panels to power heat lamps in the chicken coop, where eggs are laid by free-range, grain-fed chickens. A little solar-powered poultry, anyone? Furthermore, look out for beef from grass-fed cattle. If grazing is controlled properly, grass-fed cows and ranchers are participating in a centuries-old, sustainable and solar-powered feeding system. High Sierra Beef is just one example.
As much as we tailgate to drink, eat and socialize, we can’t forget about the real reason everyone got up at six a.m. to trudge out to a field or parking lot and drown their hot chocolate in butterscotch brandy: the game!
Sure, about half of the tailgaters will head into the stadium at game time, but there’s a healthy chunk of solar-powered eaters and drinkers hanging in the parking lot listening to or watching the game.
And yes, solar power can provide the entertainment as well. First off, there are portable solar kits that are strong enough to power a small television or even a laptop that can stream the game over the internet. If the game is blacked out on television, then there are solar radios available to tune into – blackouts just don’t fit in at a solar tailgate party!
When the sun sets on your tailgate party, that’s when solar power can really come in handy. All it takes is a few solar garden lights or solar lanterns in the back of the truck or on the roof of the car. Simply turn them on at night, and you have light with which to walk, play cards, continue eating or peep inside the beer cooler. Strings of solar lights can be used to line a screen tent or pop-up shelter.
Seasons of Solar
Once you’ve thrown one solar-powered tailgate party, you’re set to throw many more seasons-worth. For years, you will have the coolest party on the block, with all the gadgets, all the fun and none of the wires. You’ll most certainly make tons of new friends and perhaps even inspire a solar-powered party next door.
Story Courtesy of CalFinder