Throw the Ultimate Tournament Party

March 22, 2017 | Food Lion
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Cheer on your team (or the demise of your rival's team) with your own tournament party!

For basketball fans, there's no more thrilling time of the year than early spring. And as the tournament kicks into high gear, game time becomes party time. (Even if you're not into college hoops, who can say no to a fun gathering of family and friends to brighten up the dreariest month of the year?)

Follow our smart (and easy!) tips to throw the ultimate tournament party.

Set yourself up to win. Have the TV and food stations in separate rooms. That way, die-hard fans can catch every nuance of the game without being distracted by conversations about the crazy March weather and how amazing the munchies are — and vice versa.

Keep the food simple... If you're tight on party prep time, try this super-easy slow cooker favorite: 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, two 8-ounce blocks of Food Lion cream cheese, and two 1-ounce packets of dry ranch seasoning, cooked on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours. Shred the chicken and mix in 8 ounces of crumbled bacon — voila, you've got a dish that works well as a savory dip with crackers or tortillas, makes a hearty sandwich filling, or tastes great in lettuce wraps for guests who are watching their carbs. Keep the basketball theme going with simple, healthy snacks like sliced orange bell peppers, or a bowl of navel oranges (you can draw basketball seams on the rind with markers.)

…and game-friendly. For a party where people are going to be holding plates on their laps or even moving around, make sure you offer food that's easy to hold and eat, like Food Lion's Love Me Tender party platter, a mouth-watering array of golden-fried chicken tenders served with honey-mustard sauce; or The Nibbler, a collection of Swiss, Cheddar, and other cheeses along with sweet red and white grapes. A delicious Food Lion fruit or veggie tray complements any other menu item, and dessert is a no-brainer when you order a hoops-themed, decorated cake from the Food Lion bakery. (Make sure you get a keepsake photo before guests gobble it up.) For extra fun, go wild with the basketball puns and make a few signs indicating where the food is: Dribbling Drinks, Slam Dunk Appetizers, Full Court Food, Turnovers and Other Desserts.

Stock up on b-ball drinks. If you're planning to stock a cooler with soda and bottled water, be sure to add some sportier options like bottles of orange and lemon-lime Gatorade. Or, make a fun, fizzy orange punch with one can (46 ounces) pineapple juice, three cups lemon-lime soda, three cups orange drink, two liters of ginger ale, and a half gallon of Food Lion orange sherbet.Dress up. Every party is more fun when guests dress the part. Invites could request guests come in Converse or basketball tank tops — or simply the colors of their favorite team (even if they've already been knocked out of the bracket.) You can even hand out inexpensive T-shirts or sweat bands in team colors at the door. One fun idea: Hosts can dress in black and white, like referees. You're easy to spot and you have full authority to blow your whistle when you see a foul.

Decorations. Bring out the orange and black. And if you're thinking those colors sound familiar — um, Halloween? Check your cupboards to see if you've got leftover decorations from October — streamers, chalk, poster board — that can be re-purposed into a basketball theme. Of course, if everyone at the party is rooting for a hometown college team, you're safe going with team colors as well. Buy a few inexpensive basketball hoops (the kind that go over doorways) and encourage your guests to play pickup games while waiting for the real action to begin. Other ideas: Basketball-themed pom-poms, streamers and buttons are all fun party favors.

Don't forget the bracket! You can include the all-important bracket with invites (guests can fill it out before the party if they like.) Draw one on a chalkboard or poster board near the entryway; have smaller copies to distribute to guests. Send kids outside with sidewalk chalk to decorate your driveway with a basketball-friendly motif — balls, baskets, cheering stick figure fans. You'll immediately set the mood for the best party of the month — even if you didn't do so well with your bracket picks.