The Grove (Ole Miss)
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The Grove is the legendary tailgating area located at the center of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) campus. It is approximately 10 acres (4.0 ha) in size and is shaded by oak, elm and magnolia trees hence the grove part of the name.
Originally, gathering in The Grove was an informal tailgating get-together when most serious pre-game socializing took place at the fraternity and sorority houses. By the 1950s, the Grove started to become its own pregame tradition.
Automobiles, including RV campers, have been kept out of The Grove since a rainstorm in 1991 that reduced the Grove to a rutted swamp. The autos were replaced by tents. As a result of fans claiming certain areas within The Grove for their tents, and often getting mad when they arrived and found someone else in "their spot", rules and regulations were put in place that characterizes the party in The Grove today. The Ole Miss Alumni Association's Grove Society began in 1998 to preserve the 10-acre (4.0 ha) green space. The Grove Society posts a strict schedule for the event.
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 2:00PM the day before the game (campus rule is no one allowed to "stake their claim" before 6:00 pm) to grab their spot in The Grove. Despite campus police efforts to keep the crowd at bay, fans "rush" the grove around 4:30-5:00PM. This usually serene area of campus becomes a sea of red, white and blue tents. Ole Miss freshmen generally dress in their Sunday best: Men wear slacks, button-up shirts, ties, loafers, 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. 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".
As if on cue, hundreds of fans reply, "HELLLLL YES! DAAAAMN RIGHT!"
Then, in unison, they begin to chant the Hotty Toddy cheer:
|“||Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty|
Who in the hell are we, Hey!
Flim Flam, Bim Bam
OLE MISS BY DAMN!\'
The bathrooms setup in The Grove on gameday are even located in trailers called the "Hotty Toddy Potty" and the "Hotty Toddy Potty Too" respectively.
There's also a "G-rated" version of "Hotty Toddy" for the kids:
|“||Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty|
Who are we? Hey!
Flim Flam, Bim Bam
Ole Miss, Yes Ma'am!
|“||I went a lot when I was in middle school and as a kid. You'd play pickup football in your best clothes and your parents would come looking for you. They'd find you all muddy and sweaty. People always think of it as a place for alumni and students, but some of my best memories from there are as a kid. As a student, after games I would go back into The Grove. My parents (Archie and Olivia Manning) always had a tent and we had the full setup. (We didn't have anything) too ritualistic (in our tent); nothing as fancy as some of the others get. But we always had some sort of shrimp dish, being from New Orleans. And then some sandwiches. Chili. Fried chicken. Boiled peanuts. Veggie spreads. Dip. More drinks.||”|
|“||Tailgating in The Grove is an experience so sublime even native son William Faulkner would be at a loss to describe it.||”|
|“||There is no more beautiful spot to tailgate, nor one richer in tradition; the Grove has been the site of pregame picnicking for more than half a century.||”|
|“||The glory of the Grove is legend at all of Ole Miss’s rival schools in the Southeastern Conference and beyond. It is the mother and mistress of outdoor ritual mayhem.||”|
A common saying by "grovers" is "We may not win every game, but we've never lost a party."
Joe Cahn, known as "The Commissioner of Tailgating", said after his 2003 Tailgating tour that The Grove is "probably the most single outstanding tailgating area in the country." He continued:
|“||There may be bigger…there may be louder…but there truly isn’t any better tailgating than Ole Miss.||”|
The Columbia Missourian newspaper called The Grove, "the mecca of tailgating in American sports."
Walk of Champions
On its way to the stadium a few hours before kickoff, dressed in suits and ties, the Ole Miss Rebels football team makes its way under a brick and metal arch and into the sea of "grovers". This is known as the Walk of Champions. The arch was donated by Ole Miss' only undefeated football team, the 1962 Rebels.
The area surrounding the Walk of Champions entrance is "prime real estate" for "grovers".
The Grove Bowl is the name of the annual spring intrasquad scrimmage in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game is played between the "Red" squad and the "Blue" squad. Ole Miss football players are assigned to a squad by the coaches and then play a full-contact game. Tickets are sold to the game. A record Grove Bowl crowd of 28,375 fans attended the 2009 Grove Bowl. Tailgating in The Grove also takes place at the Grove Bowl.
- VIDEO: Live webcam of The Grove at Ole Miss
- VIDEO: Virtual tour of The Grove at Ole Miss
- ESPN VIDEO: Gettin' In the Grove at Ole Miss
- CNN VIDEO: Groov'in in the Grove
- Sports Illustated: Saturday at the Grove; An inside look at the nation's top tailgating spot
- ^ a b c d e f g ESPN: Nothin' like a Hotty Toddy party to kick off Saturday
- ^ a b c d e f g The New York Times: At Ole Miss, the Tailgaters Never Lose
- ^ Ole Miss Grove Society: Protect the Grove
- ^ OleMissSports.com: The Grove
- ^ a b c Sports Illustrated: Best Tailgating
- ^ a b c Columbia Missourian: Long-time tradition brings fans to The Grove
- ^ a b Sports Illustrated: Road Trip: University of Mississippi
- ^ a b ESPN: The Road Warrior: Best College Tailgating Scenes
- ^ TailGaiting.com: Ole Miss Tailgate Parties
- ^ Ole Miss Sports: Snead Shines In Front Of Record Grove Bowl Crowd