How to Tailgate Like a Pro at the Montpelier Races

When you think of tailgating, images of football games and stadium parking lots might come to mind. But there's a hidden gem of tailgating traditions that doesn't involve touchdowns and field goals – it's the Montpelier Races! The style here is different, but the camaraderie and the fun are just as palpable. One of the most exciting aspects of Race Day is the highly contested Tailgate Contest, where participants showcase their creativity and culinary skills, all in good spirit. However, even if you're not feeling particularly competitive, creating a fantastic tailgate experience is a wonderful way to enjoy the day and make lasting memories. Here are some tips to ensure your Montpelier Races tailgate is a winner.

Plan Your Menu with Travel in Mind

When tailgating at Montpelier Races, it's essential to plan a menu that travels well and can be displayed for several hours. Finger foods are your best friends, as they make serving easy and allow your fellow tailgaters to graze throughout the day. Think about a spread of delectable crudites that can be nibbled at leisure. For those cooler fall days, consider hot dishes like chili or soup. These can be kept warm with insulated coolers (which aren't just for cold drinks) and tabletop heaters. Of course, no tailgate is complete without a well-stocked bar. For safety, opt for plastic or stemless glasses, and don't forget the garnishes – because what's a Bloody Mary without the iconic celery stick?

Let Your Decorations Shine

To set your Montpelier Races tailgate apart, go all out with decorations and displays. Start by planning a theme, and see if you can incorporate items you already have on hand. Some popular themes include fox hunting decor, fall themes with pumpkins, plaid, and autumn colors, and the classic racing theme featuring jockey silks and numbered saddlecloths. Flowers are always a lovely touch, and even simple branches of fall-colored leaves can make a significant impact on your setup.

Embrace the Annual Theme

At Montpelier, the Tailgate Contest keeps things fresh and creative by choosing a new theme each year. This year's theme is "Home on the Range," celebrating all things West of the Mississippi. Channel your inner cowboy or cowgirl and rustle up some dishes that will impress the judges… Think of chuck wagons, southwestern dishes, and other campfire favorites. Keep in mind that judging is based on a 50% score for food and a 50% score for presentation. To get in the mood for a Western extravaganza, consider renting a few old cowboy movies and immersing yourself in the Wild West spirit.

This year's chef judge is Jason Guckert from Main Street Tavern, one of the event sponsors. Joining him is Wine & Country, a long-time partner of Montpelier Races. Both Main Street Tavern and Wine & Country are great sources of inspiration for building your tailgate experience. Check out their ideas for tailgating and impressing your friends on their website: Additionally, you can take a look at their review of our 2021 Tailgate Contest winners to see what it takes to come out on top:

The Montpelier Races offer a unique and exciting tailgating experience that's a departure from the norm. With delicious food, creative decorations, and a bit of Wild West spirit, you can make your 2023 tailgate a memorable and winning affair. So, saddle up and get ready to enjoy the camaraderie and fun at the Montpelier Races Tailgate Contest – it's an event like no other!


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