Ah, the Grove. It’s not just 10 acres of grass, oak, elm and magnolia trees. It’s an entity here at the University of Mississippi, a sort of Holy Ground where the earth is soaked with history, victory and, yes, beer.
During football season Saturdays, Ole Miss fans from near and far gather together with friends, family and fans from opposing teams to celebrate their respective sports teams, share food and drink and have a good time. Ask any Grove veteran, there’s really nothing quite like walking through the red, white and blue city of tents that springs up from the patchy grass the morning of a home game.
If it’s your first game, oh baby, you are in for a real treat. I’ve written a “How to Grove” guide before, so I won’t bog you down with the usual tips. Instead, I’d thought I’d give you some insider info on what exactly you’re coming up against this football season.
- The Grove is old and more fragile than you think: The tradition of tailgating in the Grove is said to have been the result of fraternity and sorority pregaming in the earlier days of Ole Miss football. By the 1950s, the Grove had become an early version of what it is today: a big party. But, originally, the tailgating was done using actual cars and RVs, which was too much for the gentle Grove. Following a big ole rainstorm in 1991 which practically reduced the Grove to a muddy pit, vehicles were banned and the tents became a thing. But the Grove is still fragile. Beer caps, chicken fingers and all the other trash that gets left all over the Grove hurts it and makes it sad. So be kind to the Grove — your Saturday vessel of fun — and clean up after yourself.
- The Grove destroys shoes: I’m going to say this here and now, and I know some of you are not going to listen, but for the love of me do not wear open-toed shoes. Just don’t do it. Your feet will get stepped on. This is a fact. And they will get very dirty. I myself have a specific pair of “Grove shoes.” They are sturdy, versatile, comfortable and they clean easily. Any shoe you wear during a Grove day will get muddy.
- The Grove is outside: Yes, kids, the rumors are true; the Grove is indeed outside in the outdoors. This, of course, means that when you are in the Grove, you are exposing yourself to certain outdoor elements such as bugs and the sun. So just remember that before you prance out, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, into the Mississippi wet heat this Saturday. I’m not saying you should roll out in a bubble, covered in sunscreen and bugspray. I’m just saying accept the fact you’re going to get sweaty this weekend.
- The Grove is a labyrinth: The cell service is bad, there are tons of people everywhere all wearing the same color and it’s so easy to get lost. My friends and I use the buddy system when we have to make a stop at the Hotty Toddy Potty because during a big game, 3-feet of distance could turn into 30 faster than you can blink. I would estimate I spend at least 20 minutes per Grove day just looking for whatever tent I’m supposed to go to.
- The Grove is dehydrating: Once you make it to your tent or tents of choice, do yourself a favor and drink some H2O. We’ve said it before, and we can’t say it enough. Water is the lifeblood, the drink that will secure your stamina for navigating the Grove labyrinth.
- Chow down: Enjoy the tasty Grove food provided by your tent stops. It’s easy to make it through the day and realize you never had a real meal. That’s okay, just get your day’s calories in Grove food. Just don’t forget to thank the hosts and hostesses!
- The Grove may feel like your playground, but don’t forget, you aren’t the one making the rules: Be sure to understand the university’s policies before hanging up that flag or carrying around that open container. We got the scoop that police will be in full force on game days, and we’d prefer if our fellow students avoid spending the night in jail or in line to receive a strike from the university.
- The Grove is for all of the Ole Miss family: If you think you wouldn’t fit in or you don’t know anyone with tents, don’t worry. Some of the nicest people become even nicer on game days. A number of schools, clubs and programs set up tents, so you can catch up with your geology professor and grab some deviled eggs. There’s also the “Everybody’s Tent,” a large structure perfect for meeting people and making new friends.
- In spite of popular belief, you don’t HAVE to dress up in your heels and best red or blue dress for the Grove, though it is encouraged: Wear what makes you feel comfortable, but know there is something unifying about wearing that game’s color and then joining the swath of other fans in the student section. And don’t forget: wear Grove-ready shoes!
- Learn the Hotty Toddy chant: It is a must for both the Grove and the game. And don’t worry, if you don’t know it now, you’ll have it ingrained after your first time in the Grove.
ARE YOU READY?