Kickoff Party with DIY Referee Centerpiece and Lighter Fare

by Alli

Kickoff Party has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #ReadyForKickoff #CollectiveBias

I’m so proud of my husband! He kicked the new year off right by setting some fitness goals and he’s nailing it. I, on the other hand, am missing hosting holiday parties and entertaining friends and family.

Since I always host a Kickoff Party for the big game, this year I’m serving food options that are delicious and easy on the waistline. No way am I sabotaging my husband’s hard work. For more delicious recipes, check out my 29 Best Game Day Recipes.

For my Kickoff Party, I’m going whimsical and fun with an Ode to the Referee theme. We all know that the refs get no respect. I’ll be the first one to jump up and yell at the ref. Then someone will hit replay in slow motion to prove we were right. I have to admit that sometimes I am so wrong.

Kickoff Party

Another reason I’m having an Ode to the Referee theme is that my favorite color combination is black and white. I’ll add a splash of red to honor my favorite team from my home state.

Kickoff Party - Ode to the Ref

A whimsical party must have an over-the-top centerpiece. After choosing a menu and color scheme, my attention turns to the centerpiece. Let’s create a referee with clay pots.

DIY Referee for KickOff Party

Here’s what you need:

  • Two 6″ clay pots
  • Six 2″ clay pots
  • Ribbon
  • White Spray Paint
  • Black Masking Tape
  • Whistle
  • Potting Soil
  • Plant Material
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Large Googly Eyes
  • Pom Pom for Nose

Spray paint one of the 6″ clay pots white. Let dry completely. Add black stripes with the masking tape. The stripes will not be perfect because the top of the clay pot is larger, but that’s Ok. It’s even more whimsical.

Kick-Off Party - Make a DIY Referee Centerpiece

To make the arms, cut a length of ribbon about 12″ long and thread three clay pots on either side.  Turn the striped pot upside down and place the ribbon across the top.

Kickoff Party

Add the other 6″ clay pot on top (right side up). Glue the two pots together using a hot glue gun.

Add potting soil to the top pot and plant greenery (hair). I couldn’t find any fresh greenery so I used the fake kind. It’s adorable. Add large googly eyes and a pompom nose. Place a whistle around the ref’s neck. Done!

DIY Football Party Centerpiece - Kickoff Party

Now that we’ve got the centerpiece completed, let’s talk about food and drink.

Whimsical Kickoff Party Menu

Kickoff Party Menu

Homemade Cilantro Pesto is easy to make and pairs perfectly with my favorite RITZ crackers. You’ll need two cups fresh cilantro, garlic cloves, pecans, extra-virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.

Combine the cilantro, garlic, pecans, and parmesan cheese in a food processor and process until chopped. Add a 1/2 cup olive oil and process until smooth.

Kickoff Party

To serve, spread the reduced fat cream cheese onto a RITZ cracker. I use a piping bag because it’s prettier and easier to spread.

Cilantro Pesto - Kickoff Party

Top with pesto and add 1/2 grape tomato. Repeat until you have a serving tray full of appetizers.

Kickoff Party

Cilantro Pesto, Cream Cheese and Tomato Topped RITZ Crackers

Kickoff Party


  • 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (12 oz.) reduced fat tub of cream cheese
  • Grape tomatoes
  • RITZ crackers (13.7 oz. box)


  1. Combine cilantro, garlic, pecans and cheese in a food processor.
  2. Process until chopped.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of olive oil and process until smooth.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Spread cream cheese onto RITZ crackers. Add a dollop of pesto to each cracker and top with 1/2 Grape tomato.

Did you make this recipe?

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For dessert, I serve Mini Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits. I layer Light Vanilla Greek yogurt, fresh raspberries, and blueberries in shot glasses. It’s a simple, tasty dessert that always gets rave reviews.

Kickoff Party - Mini Parfaits

Helpful Hint: Use a pastry bag for the yogurt. It’s so much easier than trying to spoon yogurt into the tiny glasses.

Kickoff Party - Parfaits

Grilled chicken is served on skewers. That way, my guests can eat and cheer at the same time – no forks or knives needed.

Kickoff Party - Oven Baked Sweet Potatoes

A veggie tray always makes an appearance on my party table. For my Kickoff Party, I’m serving veggies in individual containers. Just grab it and get your munch on while watching the big game.

Kickoff Party - Veggie Tray

Baked sweet potato fries round out my menu. I made cones out of parchment paper, filled them with sweet potato fries and placed individual servings in little white buckets.

Kickoff Party - Sweet Potato Fries

Food and Drink Tables

Round tables work perfectly for a football kickoff party. I usually have two tables – one for the food and one for the drinks. That way, all the guests aren’t clogged up in one place.

I added the black and white referee theme to my drink table as well. Using black tape, my sweet hubby added stripes to my plain white beverage tub and it ties in nicely with my referee theme.

Kickoff Party

Since I’m leaning towards lighter fare, Coke Zero is my family’s drink of choice. I like the six-pack variety because I can keep them well chilled in my beverage tub and I don’t need cups at all.

Kickoff Party featuring black and white stripes

Name That Referee Football Signal Game and Free Printables

A Whimsical Kickoff Party with a Referee theme calls for a game with a nod towards the officials. Do you know what the signals mean? This fun game will showcase how much your guests know about the game of football. Be sure and have a prize on hand for the winner.

Whimsical Kickoff Party - Free Printable

Download the free printables here: Name That Referee Signal Game | Correct Answers

My guests are wild about the whimsical spin I added to my Kickoff Party. It’s fun, easy to recreate and cleanup is a breeze.

Watching the Game - Whimsical Kickoff Party

No one had to know the food is better for them. We’ll keep that little secret between ourselves.

Kickoff Party - Lighter Fare

Helpful Hint: Everything you need to throw a Whimsical Kickoff Party can be purchased at your local Walmart, including the RITZ Crackers and Coke Zero.

Kickoff Party

There’s no need to run from one store to the next when Walmart has everything you need for a fabulous party.



Don't Forget to Pin It! Turtles

I've put a whimsical spin on my Ode to the Ref Kickoff Party. Plus, I'm serving lighter fare, including homemade cilantro pesto. Shhh - your guest don't have to know. My Ode to the Ref centerpiece is fun to make and your guests will love he whimsical touch.

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candy January 20, 2017 - 7:23 am

What an adorable center piece you have made. Everyone would find it adorable. I always like to have a wide variety of food options. Have to please not only the men but the women who will be attending.

Shirley Wood January 20, 2017 - 7:41 am

Your centerpiece Red is adorable. I love it! My family enjoys everything on your menu especially the sweet potato fries. I have a Pinterest board devoted completely to sweet potatoes because I love them so much.
I totally need to try to learn those signals! We’ll be watching more playoffs this weekend and looking forward to Super Bowl.

Katie Kinsley January 20, 2017 - 8:53 am

VERY CUTE little referee! I’ve made lighthouses before out of terra cotta larger jars before (standing at 3 ft tall). I love how easy and versatile they are to work with. And I love sweet potato fries!

carol January 20, 2017 - 9:26 am

this is such a fun party tutorial. That little guy made of clay pots is the cutest referee ever!

zan January 20, 2017 - 9:40 am

Your referee centerpiece is so creative. I love the hair too..haha!! My husband refs basketball and always gets yelled at for stuff he’s doing or not doing. So I can associate even though you are talking about football:) Love that you are keeping the meal healthy but still delicious. Everything looks so tasty!!!! It’s nice that you are honoring your husband’s decision to be healthier too.

Vera Sweeney January 20, 2017 - 11:37 am

I love the referee theme!!! I am going to miss all the tailgating parties when the season is over for good! Your food looks amazing too!

Christy Maurer January 20, 2017 - 11:56 am

He is adorable! I love how you’re keeping your hubby in mind while planning these healthy snacks. Sweet potato fries are my fave! Thanks for sharing!

Nicole Elliott ~ Client January 20, 2017 - 3:32 pm

This party is SO FUN!!! Love that adorable centerpiece and all the food and drinks sound delicious!

Pam Wattenbarger January 20, 2017 - 6:06 pm

Ooh, cilantro pesto sounds awesome! I need to make that ASAP. I love any and every kind of pesto.

Kathy Myers January 20, 2017 - 7:17 pm

This is so cute! I am going to have to do this for our Super bowl party!

Dawn McAlexander January 20, 2017 - 8:23 pm

I love the little referee. He’s cute. I think the yogurt parfaits may have been my favorite recipe. They all look good though.

Jacqui @FlightsFancyMom January 20, 2017 - 11:24 pm

What a creative idea! I love that. I’ll have to show my sister and see if she’s up for the challenge of making one for her centerpiece 🙂

Nikka Shae January 21, 2017 - 10:28 am

What a fun party theme! I can’t wait for the Super Bowl this year!!!

curso sobrancelha perfeita January 21, 2017 - 5:22 pm

Adoro seus artigos também faço artigos >>>>

Annemarie LeBlanc January 22, 2017 - 12:39 am

I have to hand it to you! You are so creative! I love everything, from the centerpiece, the food, the drinks! I do a lot of cooking too, during game days, but I just set everything on the table. I wish I could make something like this!

Rebecca Swenor January 22, 2017 - 8:16 am

This is a really awesome theme for a kick off party. I love the idea of the DiY clay pot referee centerpiece. This is a great idea and I will have to do this referee. These are great food idea that are not bad on the waistline. Thanks for sharing the the ideas.

Chubskulit Rose January 22, 2017 - 2:16 pm

You are very creative. You always make beautiful things for any occasion, I wish I have that knack.

Amanda Simkin January 22, 2017 - 5:02 pm

That centerpiece is absolutely ADORABLE! This would be a great way to keep my kids occupied so that I can actually watch some of the Super Bowl in peace. Love the snack ideas, too.

Agnes January 22, 2017 - 5:28 pm

This is such a cool idea! I can imagine the kids going crazy over it.

Angie Rose January 23, 2017 - 2:23 am

What a cute centerpiece! You are so creative 🙂 We would love to have you share this over at this week’s Dishing It and Digging It party! Please feel free to join

adriana January 23, 2017 - 10:36 am

Oh my goodness this is SO adorable! I love this idea, it looks so cute and makes for such a fun centerpiece! So creative, I never would of thought of this!

Kendall Rayburn February 1, 2017 - 12:49 pm

That centerpiece is SO cute! Love the ref idea – and all of your food looks yummy!

27 Football Party Ideas [food, decor, games] | Tip Junkie August 26, 2017 - 10:16 pm

[…] Kick off your game day party with a cute terra cotta pot referee centerpiece by An Alli Event. You’ll need some clay pots, masking tape, paint and googly […]


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