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?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Facebook

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.

You May Also Like

Pecan Tassies and Big Football Bash

Big Football Bash

Easy Stress-Free Football Party

Football Party and Photo Booth Fun

33 Slow Cooker Meatball Recipes

Meatballs You Can Make in Your Slow Cooker

Skip to Recipe