Home > B/R, Ole Miss, Sports > Ole Miss Football 2011: The Tailgating Experience in Oxford Is One of a Kind

Ole Miss Football 2011: The Tailgating Experience in Oxford Is One of a Kind

Many college football fans are loyal to their team, and that’s it. Fans like that are used to one way of life, and that is the way they spend their Saturdays in the fall.

Most Saturdays are spent in a lot, or field, near the stadium cooking, listening to music and having a good time. That is different on campus at the University of Mississippi.

A lot of fans will say, “At my school, there really is a difference.” My answer to that is simple. They just haven’t been to Ole Miss.

What makes Ole Miss’ tailgating experience unique is the large area of land in the heart of the campus known as The Grove. This area is wooded with large oak, magnolia and elm trees throughout that provide the perfect amount of shade to ensure there is always a nice setting to take a walk, study or hangout with friends. The Grove is the place to be on Ole Miss football game days, and it is home on fall Saturdays to nearly 30,000 fans.

It is where most fans set up to enjoy a morning or afternoon before the Rebs play, where the band warms up and performs before marching to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and where the football team walks through to get to the stadium. It’s The Grove.

Many fans show up the night before and do a tradition known as “charging The Grove.” The story behind this ritual is that the University Police Department would usually not open The Grove to fans to reserve tent spots until late Friday night, so the fans would overpower them and do it much earlier.

Many fraternity boys and other fans wait at the bottom of the hill behind the student union and on sorority row, and many wait on the other side of The Grove. Someone yells, “Go!” and that’s that. Everyone runs as fast as they can and usually the UPD would just give up and let it happen.

Each year the time to set up is moved up to an earlier time, lately it has been more around six or seven the night before. It is such a big deal because The Grove is first come, first served. Where you set up, it’s yours.

There are no parking passes or anything like that. You park somewhere else. It’s not about parking close; it’s about getting a spot closest to the Walk of Champions or the road.

Each group’s tent is right next to the other, sometimes inches apart. That is the family mentality that is present throughout The Grove and throughout the entire campus. We are all members of one big family. The Ole Miss family.

This family is a close-knit one, and that quality is shown every home Saturday in the fall when one looks out into the Grove.

One thing about The Grove is you don’t hear obnoxiously loud music like you would tailgating in south Louisiana. Yes, I am talking about LSU if that blew over your head.

Fans have things in their tents in The Grove that you won’t find other places. Large speakers and horrible music playlists are not something you will find in The Grove. Some fans cook various family recipes and others have catering companies deliver right to their tents.

Tailgating in The Grove is a much more upscale, formal event. There are tablecloths, centerpieces, flowers and sometimes even things as crazy as chandeliers hanging from the middle of tents.

A few hours before game time a few big buses drive up the hill behind the union and drop the players off. They then make their way through the center of The Grove, down the “Walk of Champions” and eventually to the football stadium.

They walk right through thousands of Rebels fans yelling and cheering, high-fiving and shaking their hands. It is a way for the Rebs to know just how many people will be behind them come game time.

The final thing about The Grove is the attire. The girls are looking their cutest in their little sundresses they bought just for The Grove, and the guys are wearing slacks and nice polo shirts or button-down dress shirts. You don’t see bright red jumpsuits unless they are on the coaching staff or players.

At some schools you will see, let’s say, “not physically fit” individuals wearing bright purple warm-ups with a matching jacket, as if they are of some importance to the football program. Yes, I am taking another shot at LSU. Plain and simple, you won’t find that at Ole Miss.

Ole Miss is just different. There is no place like The Grove on a Saturday in the fall.

Rebels fans love football game days; from the time they bring the potato salad to their table in The Grove, to cheering their team on in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, to putting the last chair in the truck after the game.

It is all a routine that has been cherished for years and will be cherished for years to come.

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Categories: B/R, Ole Miss, Sports
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