A home game for the Scarlet Knights football team sounds like an invitation to throw steaks on the grill, pour some refreshments, open the lawn chairs, and enjoy the tailgating scene surrounding HighPoint.com Stadium. Not so for the Scarlet Party. For 36 years, this group of alumni have been producing pregame tailgate parties that are epic in concept and execution. Grills are augmented by deep-fat fryers, lobster pots, smoker boxes, and clambake pits, and revelers enjoy live music, wallow in the Jacuzzi, ride the mechanical bull, or take an ice luge run. Rutgers Magazine asked Danny Klein CC’88 how he and his gang pull it off. And check out the video of the Scarlet Party in action here.

RUTGERS MAGAZINE: How long have you and the crew associated with the Scarlet Party been tailgating at Rutgers games?
DANNY KLEIN: Tailgating has been a multigenerational tradition that began in the early 1980s. Over the years, we have combined our efforts and now have a core of eight Scarlet Party leaders and anywhere from 40 to 165 attendees.

RM: What are the basic elements of a good tailgate?
DK: Good attitudes, good friends, good themes, good food and drinks, and good music!

RM: You have stepped it up with Jacuzzis, mechanical bulls, bounce gyms, and the like. When is too much just enough?
DK: Too much is just enough because we have a “go big or go home” attitude. Why go half way when you can go all the way? We do a regular tailgate for about half the games and an “overboard” tailgate for the rest. We try to keep raising the bar until our bank accounts are drained.

RM: How do you come up with ideas for props and diversions?
DK: Themes and activities are discussed regularly at our planning meetings. During the off-season, we typically meet quarterly to discuss the tailgate plans. During the football season, we have preliminary meetings and then long email chains to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and time frames on game day.

RM: Do you have a different organizer, or quarterback, responsible for each tailgating event? How did that come to pass?
DK: All games have a designated quarterback or two. They organize the main components and tell the others what to do and what to bring. However, it is an organic team effort. Every individual has unique talents to offer. Everyone has a positive take-no-prisoners attitude. We constantly strive to be the best and try to top our last big tailgate.

RM: Do you do away game parties? How does that experience differ from a home game?
DK: Years ago, we used to go to many away games, but as our kids grew older and jobs became more important, it has gotten tougher to travel, especially now since many of the Big Ten games are not within driving distance.

RM: Do you prepare your own food at games, or do you have it catered?
DK: We prepare our own food for most of the games. We always have a few BBQ grills set up and occasionally bring a professional deep-fat fryer, lobster pots, or a smoker box. On a few occasions, we’ve arrived there early and smoked a full pig in the roaster box. It took hours but when it was done, it was delicious and well worth it. We cater for some tailgates and a few are sponsored. Our guests also frequently bring plenty of food to share with others.

RM: How many hours of party preparation are required? 
DK: It can sometimes take us three to four hours to set up, especially with the Jacuzzi. We prefer night games because they provide us plenty of time to set up and coordinate our plans. We frequently leave our homes at 6 a.m. and don’t make it back home until 2 a.m. To us, tailgating is an all-day event to be enjoyed with good friends.

RM: Is it required that your guests donate to the R Fund as sort of their ticket to the Scarlet Party?
DK: Some of our tailgates are run as fundraisers. The R Fund, Susan G. Komen breast cancer awareness, and the Wounded Warrior Project have been some of the recipients. Donations are not required; however, they are encouraged. As R Fund captains, we raised more than $30,000 last year.

RM: You have been throwing tailgates for a while now. What are some of the things that you are doing better?
DK: Over the years, our tailgates have gotten much more advanced. From the days of Old Milwaukee beer and White Castle hamburgers, we have come a long way. Our coordination has gotten much better. Even though each theme is different for each game, we still have to get tables, tents, audio system, food and drinks, stages, BBQ grills, and supplies to every game. Everyone on our team has a basic role for each game, and timing is crucial.

RM: What have been some of the themes of your parties? And does the theme change game to game? Or maybe once or a few times each season?
DK: Themes change for every game. We repeat our most successful themes on a yearly basis. Some of our popular events include: Jacuzzi luau with sand; Catalina wine mixer; rodeo with mechanical bull and dinosaurs; clambake; ice luge; breast cancer awareness (we collected and hung about 300 bras on lines and trees surrounding the tailgate; afterward, they were donated along with the money we had raised); Rutgers' Got Talent; pig roast; Rutgers grease truck tribute; karaoke competition; Oktoberfest; 80s night with a dance stage; games and beer pong championships. We frequently hire a New Jersey band to play at our tailgate events.

RM: Does the Scarlet Knights’ record have any bearing on the quality of the party?
DK: The Scarlet Knights' record doesn’t affect our tailgate at all. Of course, we’d all be excited if they had a better record in the Big Ten. However, we always bring our A game and support the players, no matter if they win or lose. In fact, a lot of ex-Scarlet Knights and NFL football players can be seen at many of our tailgates!

RM: How important is the location of the party? 
DK: Our tailgate has been in the same lot for many years now. We are located in the Yellow lot typically right up against the Scarlet Walk. You know our area because a few years ago we dumped sand for our Jacuzzi luau and it’s still there.

RM: Miller Lite designated you Tailgater of the Week. What did that designation mean to you?
DK: Over the past four years, we have won the Miller Lite Tailgater of the Game several times and the Tailgater of the Year twice, in 2015 and 2017. We are very proud of our victories and will continue to raise the bar and carry on our winning traditions. RU football and tailgating have been part of our lives for 36 years, and some of our kids are now attending Rutgers. You can follow our adventures on Instagram at TheScarletParty.

—With contributions from Mark Donlon CC’87; Dave Donlon CC’93; Dave Glass RC’04, RC’05; Mike Canavan LC’90, RBS’90; Jeff Canavan ENG’92; and Scott Bourne LC’96, LC’04.