Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Grove

If you've never been to Ole Miss for a football game, You're sincerely missing out. Everyone hates how much I talk about the Grove, but it warrants mentioning. Because for several years we were the #1 school in the country for tailgating.

On nights before the game, everyone stands around with tents and chairs and folding tables. When the clock strikes midnight, the university police begin blowing their whistles and everyone dashes into the Grove to pick out their spot. The prime spots to set up your tent are usually as close to the Walk of Champions as you can get. In the picture you can see the path carved out down the middle of the Grove, which is basically the only path in or out of this place on gameday (unless you know where you're going and you can cut down the walkways between tents until you reach the edge of the field).

Before I went to Ole Miss, I couldn't have cared less about football. I probably didn't even know what a field goal was. Now, I'm the polar opposite. After spending four and a half years at Ole Miss, I was taught better. And now, I'm probably one of the most obnoxious, die-hard Rebel fans in my group of friends. Certainly the most-so among my girl friends. But I don't care. It gives me something to love. It gives me something to obssess over. It brings me back to the school I love so much and provides me with a sense of purpose.

The experience of the Grove is extremely hard to put into words. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Described as "the Holy Grail of tailgating sites" by Sporting News, The Grove comes to life for Ole Miss Rebels football home games with as many as 25,000 fans. Fans arrive often around 12:00PM the day before the game (campus rule is no one allowed to "stake their claim" before 9:00 pm, which is strictly enforced by campus police) to grab their spot in The Grove. This usually serene area of campus becomes a sea of red, white and blue tents. Ole Miss students generally dress in their Sunday best: Men wear slacks, button-up shirts, bow ties, Sperry Top Siders, and coats while women wear cocktail dresses or brightly colored sundresses and high heel shoes. Some older fans also dress in this style.

Many tents are set up with fine kitchen ware. You'll often find lots of lace and designer doilies, fine china, chandeliers, sterling silver or silver plated candelabras and sterling silver or silver plated utensils along with chandeliers in some tents. Much of the food is laid out on table cloths in sterling silver or silver-plated servers.

The food fare often consists of hors d'oeuvres, but as with most tailgating parties, barbecue still has authority. There's also the traditional Southern food: fried chicken, pork, homemade dressings, mashed potatoes and stuffed eggs.

Every now and then, a loud voice breaks the hum of the crowd present in The Grove with the yell, "Are you READY?" This is the beginning of the Ole Miss cheer, known as "Hotty Toddy."
On cue, hundreds of fans reply, "HELLLLL YEAH! DAAAAMN RIGHT!"
Then, in unison, they begin to chant the Hotty Toddy cheer.

Spencer, one of my best friends who went to Ole Miss with me and now lives in Raleigh, and I are flying down for the Ole Miss v. Missouri game on November 23rd. Spencer's family is from St. Louis, so they plan on driving down to meet us there with a bunch of their family friends. Luckily, they plan on tailgating the whole shebang, so everything is taken care of.

I can't wait.

I'm going home.

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