The game day experience of Ole Miss Football starts at the Grove. This ten acres of land is surrounded by beautiful elm, oak, and magnolia trees. This tailgater’s resort is located in the heart of the University of Mississippi campus. Rebel faithful swarm in by the thousands to consume the “Holy Grail Land” of college football tailgating. A sea of red, white, and blue tents are assembled throughout the Grove with dazzling chandeliers hanging from inside. Children will be seen playing football in the fields, while their parents have conversations of the upcoming game. The Grove is one of the attributes that Ole Miss fans cherish most about their football. ESPN once stated the tailgating experience at the Grove is so sublime that native son William Faulkner would be at loss of words to describe.
The food is out of this world at the Grove. Barbeque has a scent that travels for miles, and the exquisite taste of hors d’oeuvres can only be described as Heaven to the taste buds. There is also that more southern home-style cooking, like fried chicken, pork, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, and southern style dressings for everyone to enjoy. This food will be served on sterling silver or silver-plated servers. Alcohol is also welcomed here, just as long as it is kept hidden from authorities and shared with friends. Bourbon is the prime choice of beverages at the Grove. It is usually mixed with Coke and filled to the top of a red solo cup.
When walking through the Grove on game day, activities bring entertainment for people of all ages. Children will be playing friendly backyard football, most of them in their Sunday’s best clothing. Games of bean bag toss is a widely popular game at the Grove. The differences in the tailgaters’ attire can also be noticed when walking through the Grove. The gorgeous women and female students will be fluttering around elegant dresses they bought specifically for this day. A lot of male students will be sporting overcoats and colorful bow ties. A typical male fan will be dressed in cargo shorts and a team polo shirt. There is a game day color code schedule for shirts and dresses, whether it is red, white, or navy. Dedicated Rebel fans follow this schedule, so they don’t stand out as the one who didn’t get the message.
There are also routine rituals that happen every game day in the Grove, and to have an experience of a lifetime, fans must attend all of them. The most infamous ritual is where fans meet with the Ole Miss players before kickoff to encourage them of the upcoming game. They meet on a trail through the Grove that leads to a bricked arch. This arch leads to the way of the stadium, and the words “Walk of Champions” embedded at the top of the arch reminds these players of the program’s rich traditions and the legends who have made their footprints through here. The current players get reminded of this, especially as they walk through this area before each game and receive their energy through the fans who swarm them as they make their journey to the stadium.
The Walk of Champions – Ole Miss Athletics
This tradition has been a routine for the players ever since the early 1980s, when at the time head coach Billy Brewer would walk his players from Kinard Hall to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Even though the arch was not built until 1998, in honor of the 1962 Ole Miss Rebels football team, the idea of interacting the players with the fans throughout the Grove was an idea of Billy Brewer. He wanted to find a way for the players to interact with the ones who idolize them.
Not long after the players leave the Grove, The Ole Miss Marching Band, known as The Pride of the South, strikes a tune that sends chills down listeners’ spines. This ritual usually signals that kickoff of the upcoming game is every so close. After the band warms up, they begin their performance with the traditional “Forward Rebels.” This is the official fight song of the school. Most fans know the lyrics and chant along to the tune.
Tailgating in The Grove is an experience so sublime even native son William Faulkner would be at a loss to describe it. – ESPN
Once the fight song is concluded, fans listen to the southern tradition tunes of “Dixie” and “God Bless America,” which replaced “Dixie with Love” after the 2009 football season. If someone has never listened to “Dive with Love,” then I would highly recommend they find a recording of the tune. It was always the bands’ finale and the captivating sounds surged energy into every fan, and could even bring tears to many eyes. The conclusion of the bands’ performance is a signal that it is game time. This tradition concludes about an hour before the game, but it is a widely known rule amongst fans to arrive in their stadium seats forty-five minutes before kickoff.
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. – Sports Illustrated
As fans make their way towards Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the beautiful scenery across the campus describes the inner beauty of Ole Miss. Some opposing fans might find some of the monuments across campus odd. For instance, they will notice eighteen is the speed limit on the signs leading to the stadium. Visitors may laugh at the oddness of it not being a more traditional speed limit. The speed limit honors Archie Manning, who wore number eighteen in his playing years at Ole Miss. The legendary quarterback laid the foundation for Ole Miss football and his records are still chased today.
Fans finally make it to the stadium, and they are tired by now, but they do not care. They are ready to witness a game of football. For a moment, the amount of bourbon they have consumed in the Grove has made them careless of the coming results of the game. So, win or lose, they know they have already had an experience of a life time.