I was lucky enough to have witnessed in person the latest Aggie road victory, and was equally impressed by my experience in the Grove on the Ole Miss campus. For those of you that are unfamiliar, the Grove is the 10-acre area known for its elaborate tailgating, live music, fellowship and, of course, the inevitable “Hotty Toddy” chant (it may actually be a yell, but I like to think that is a word reserved for us Aggies).
I decided early in the season I would venture to Mississippi for a road game and was given a lot of advice on what to wear, how to get there, and what to expect when I arrived.
I rolled into Oxford around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, which seemed to offer about the right amount of tailgating time for a 7:30 p.m. kick-off. I was greeted with a good Texas-sized rain shower that dropped about an inch of rain and flooded some of the streets.
A little mad at the weather for possibly ruining my trip, I found a place to park off the Square and ran quickly into the nearest place to find a cold adult beverage. To my shock there were only about 4 or 5 Ole Miss fans, but about 20 or more Aggies all watching football on the various TVs. As I struck up a conversation with one Rebel fan, he told me that if I waited until about 3 or so, the Grove would be quite active and the rain should be stopped by then. Taking his advice, I began my walk over to the Grove.
As I walked up the hill past The Inn at Ole Miss, there were pop-up tents and canopies as far as I could see. There was not any discernible pattern to the set-up and I couldn’t really see any walkways or rows. Every group’s tailgate area was directly adjacent or, more precisely, actually attached to their neighbor.
The rain, and now mud, had not dampened anyone’s excitement. I saw at least two groups that had a live band, and I counted no less than 10 groups that had a cross-stitched or needle-pointed menu sign specific to the Ole Miss-A&M game.
There were a few tables without linen tablecloths, but not very many. What struck me more than the number of blue blazers and high heels I saw was the genuine hospitality I encountered. I was greeted by countless Rebels, offered food and drinks, and honestly felt welcomed.
As it turned out, the one family with whom I was supposed to meet had a minor emergency and couldn’t make it. But, after a few texts and tweets, one of the Ole Miss faithful came out, found me and escorted me back to her tailgate where I was greeted as a long lost relative–not as the lost guy nobody there knew (which is what I actually was). I was given more food and drink and even great directions for getting back to the airport without hitting all of the construction I drove through on the way there.
There are some basic instructions any Aggies going to the Grove must know:
1. Mississippi State is known only as “State” and is the equivalent of tu.
2. Do not wear shorts and flip flops like some do to tailgate at Kyle Field; it is just not done.
3. Don’t expect to see many washers, ladder golf balls, bean bags, or footballs being tossed.
4. Wear your maroon proudly and be ready to be greeted warmly and often.
5. And most importantly, if you hear more than two people proclaim, “Are you ready?” be aware that you are about to be in the middle of a “Hotty Toddy” that will be loud and proud.
I know everyone knows by now how the game ended up–for the second year in a row–but the impression left on me by a fellow SEC university that has such proud, supportive, welcoming and genuinely polite fans, was just as profound.
I would like to suggest that all of my fellow Aggies put the Ole Miss game on your travel schedule for the 2015 football season.
Follow our Twitter for this Saturday’s game @MaroonMadnessFS