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Major league win for tailgaters

Hen Henderlite and Shari Graham were aiming to hit it out of the park Saturday night, and that’s exactly what they did as winners of the Pops at the Post’s inaugural tailgating contest.
There was friendly competition among more than half of the 38 tailgaters who chose to participate in the contest. As winners, Hen and Shari and their husbands, John and Bill, receive a free tailgating space for next year.
“Sporting Fit for Royalty” was the entry from Tom and Leigh Ann Loeblein and members of their supper club and other friends.
“We are gonna win this prize!” Stan Jordan said with authority. Stan sported a jersey of his favorite team, the Cardinals. On the table were crowns for the men and tiaras for the women, all decorated with sports-related newspaper articles. The group chose to combine the music theme and the sports theme. Their tables was decorated with bouquets of wildflowers including Queen Anne’s lace and thistles.
Nearby, Bob and Doris Yost of China Grove visited with friends at their tent.
“We’re just eating,” Doris admitted. “We did good to get here. We’re competing in the eating category.
Doris will be pleased to know that the “eating category” — top tailgating foods — will be added for next year’s competition.
Jason Walser and Michael Bitzer and their families shared another tent. Michael said that preparing homemade strawberry ice cream and smoking a Boston butt was competition enough for him.
So some groups were competing, and as Doris said, some were just eating and visiting.
Chris Thompson’s team went all out with a patriotic theme. Each member of the party was all dressed in red, white and blue. Their white pick-up truck was decked out with patriotic feather banners (those tall, thin flags that seem to be everywhere these days) and festooned with patriotic tablecloths and garlands. Guests wore baseball hats, golf hats and tennis hats. Chris even wore patriotic jewelry to complete her casual ensemble.
“They know I want to win,” she said of her accommodating friends. Chris added they had come from as far away as South Carolina, Maryland and Connecticut.
“It was a lot of fun,” Chris said of getting all of the patriotic paraphernalia together.
Kathy Dunn chose a feline theme for her table. “Pops at the Post is the cat’s meow” a sign said. She had a number of stuffed kitties all around and a bowl with live goldfish.
Sauntering from tent to tent, judges Kimi Matthews and Clyde took their jobs seriously. Each had a clipboard, and the duo decided to rank entries based on theme, the clever and whimsical nature of the design and its artistic beauty and aesthetics.
Their grand total added up to 99 and I thought it should’ve been 100, but I didn’t let the lost point bother me. (Much.)
Clyde noted that several tents had a kid-friendly theme, with passels of children filling up entire spaces. One group had arranged strollers to better corral the youngsters.
“Our theme is kids, like 500 of them,” one mom said, as about a half-dozen young children noshed on popsicles and watermelon, while another half-dozen made their way to the tent.
“They have their kids at Pops at the Post instead of staying home,” Clyde said. “I like it.”
The Trinity Oaks tent and another kids’ zone were side by side, with plenty of toys strewn about.
Clyde said that he had Kimi had received no bribes, and the two greeted every tailgating group, whether or not they were decorated.
“The decoration is us!” said Franco Goodman, who was tailgating with wife Brenda and other family and friends.
Jason and Gail Williams and Andy and Kim Nance created “Southern Summer Theme.” Aluminum lawn chairs surrounded their table, topped with a red-and-white checked tablecloth. They served pound cake and strawberries with powdered sugar (a nice touch, Clyde thought), along with hamburger sliders.
“It’s vintage classic,” Kimi said.
Close by was yet another “baby booth.”
“We don’t need to be judged on our décor, just our kids,” Heather Brady said.
“Y’all are beautiful,” Clyde said, making his way carefully among the bevy of strollers.
But it was the “Graham-Henderlite Stadium” that garnered a perfect score from judges. Hen and Shari have teamed up to decorate for community events for the past several years. They, too, gave this project their usual careful thought and attention to detail.
“This is our outfield,” Hen said, gesturing to where the camp chairs were set up around a green, indoor-outdoor rug. The food table sat in the “infield.” Shari used white duct table to create a baseball diamond on a smaller square rug. The tents were anchored with red buckets, filled with baseball hats, baseballs and bats. Hen had borrowed all of the sports equipment from her friend, Amy Davis, whose children play baseball.
Napkins were in a glove, with utensils in a batter’s helmet.
The theme carried into the appetizers and desserts: tomato, basil and mozzarella stacks topped with baseball toppers; round shortbread cookies decorated with white and red icing; cupcakes made by Denise Kyger with handmade baseball toppers.
The duo also served ballpark food including hamburgers and hotdogs, peanuts, popcorn, Cracker Jack, and Baby Ruth bars. And gum with baseball trading cards.
The judges were impressed.
“It’s very clean,” Clyde said. “There’s no clutter. It was just pristine.”
Hen said that Shari read about the concert’s sports theme in the newspaper, and the two decided on a baseball theme for their tent.
“We just thought of different ways to use things,” she said. They created a menu of ballpark food and added baseball touches wherever possible.
“Pretty much everything had baseball on it,” she said.
It was a fun outing for the two.
“We like to do parties,” Hen said. “We just have fun doing it.”
The two have decorated for three weddings this year, and Hen’s daughter just got engaged, so that event is next on their list.
Hen and Shari also gave a shout-out to their husbands.
“John and Bill are the best,” Hen said. “They do the clean-up for us. We couldn’t ask for better helpers. We’re real lucky.”
Hen said she and Shari are planning to defend their title for next year.
“We’ll have to really start thinking, and get our wheels turning,” she said.
Overall, Clyde said, “We were very impressed with the work people have done. They were excessively clever and whimsical in interpreting their themes. They went all out.”
A home run all the way around.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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