After Gov. Tate Reeves announced no tailgating and limited 25% stadium capacity on Aug. 20, organizations and individual students started searching for alternative methods to celebrate the usual gameday traditions.
As a part of the SEC guidelines for the fall, no game-day shows will be allowed on the field, so groups like the UM band, the Rebelettes and the cheer team are finding new ways to perform. Instead of performing on the sidelines during home football games this season, the Rebelettes and Ole Miss Cheer will dance in the north end zone — also known as the student section.
For Rachel Levetzow, the Rebelettes spirit squad coordinator, focusing on creative ways to encourage the audience to cheer is the sole goal of the team this year.
“I’ll be excited to see what kind of fun, creative ways that they can still feel connected and involved in the game-day atmosphere,” Levetzow said. “It’s all about being creative and making the best out of every situation you’re given and moving forward.”
The squad typically performs a routine during media breaks of every home game, but since no game-day shows are allowed on the field this fall, Levetzow said the Rebelettes and athletics will pre-record performances each week to play on the jumbotron in Vaught Hemingway.
“Obviously we’re in the middle of the pandemic, but we’re going to take the craziest of situations, and we’re going to make the best out of it for our fan base,” Levetzow said. “Our athletics department, our football team, our production team, cheer, Rebelettes and band are all doing a phenomenal job to create the game-day experience that fans normally get.”
Even with these gameday adaptations, some students are frustrated by the prohibited tailgating.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say they are kind of disappointed about not being able to come out here on Saturdays for football,” freshman Ella Ellenburg said as she sat on a bench in the Grove. “They say it feels empty without all of the tents. For a lot of people, it’s not just about the game but about everything that leads up to it.”
A typical game-day weekend starts when Trashcan Friday rolls around. This is when blue and red trash cans are placed throughout the Grove and the Circle, signaling an upcoming home game. Tents are usually set up later that afternoon to prepare for the mass amount of alumni, fans, and students that would congregate there.
Now, the term “home-gating” is circulating in hopes to bring the same sense of community to Ole Miss football fans cheering on the Rebels from home.
“I definitely think that people will take that same atmosphere that they have in the Grove and take it back home,” sophomore Ta’Nia Hawkins said. “I think people are going to do what they want to do. It’s unavoidable.”
For sophomore Libby Bauer, her family has been tailgating in the Grove for 20 years and have celebrated countless birthdays and Thanksgivings in the Grove. Bauer’s family sets up tents in front of the Lyceum with six or seven other families.
“My dad has always said, ‘There’s Ole Miss, and there’s the University of Mississippi,’ and they’re two very different things,” Bauer said. “While the University of Mississippi gives you the education, Ole Miss gives you the family and sense of belonging and helps you find who you are. Ole Miss is embodied through the Grove and things like that.”