For many Ole Miss fans, the best part about home games is The Grove.
It doesn’t throw interceptions, never loses to State with a missed extra point (still salty), and it is always a good time. This year is different. There is no more justifying going to a game because of the Grove - there’s just football. While you can never truly replicate The Grove, here are a few ways to make it hurt a little less wherever you may be on a football Saturday.
1. Running of the Tents
The thing I will miss the very most this year are the Friday nights before the game. If you're new to Ole Miss tailgating and the Grove, the night before the game at around seven p.m., hundreds of people line up around the perimeter of hallowed 10 acres of tailgating heaven. There are police and security watching to make sure no one steps a foot over the line. Once the clock hits seven (or enough people run at once before they can be stopped) it is pure chaos.
Pledges, grown men, women, children, and anyone looking to claim their beloved spot runs as fast as they can holding tents, coolers, and chairs like its a gold rush in the 1800’s. It is so much fun to watch, and even more fun to be apart of whether you are a student, alum, or visiting fan.
Running of the tents in 2020: For those craving the adrenaline rush of beating out the Delta Psi’s (honestly, not difficult as they’ll be reading the Economist and debating macro socioeconomic theory) for a spot along the Walk of Champions, this one is for you. Grab whoever you are watching the game with and line them up on the opposite end of the street.
Make sure to carry something really unnecessary and heavy and then sound the alarm and make a dead sprint for the best spot on the couch.
While the Grove is great, there are a few wacky things about it as well. The biggest being strict guidelines on alcohol. You’re allowed to drink it, but no one is allowed to see it. Bottles and cans must be poured into red solo cups, or the bad boys in blue will pour each drop out into a trashcan.
I have watched clueless visiting fans roll up with cases of White Claws to watch them be poured out in front of them, and it’s not just the visiting fans either as you can usually spot an acne pocked guy in a blue blazer pouring out 450 cans of Natural Light at least a few times a season.
Security in 2020: This is a critical element of the Grove that will need to be implemented in your home in order to make it feel more authentic. Take turns with your fellow fans to be the one to enforce the invisible alcohol rule. Dump out cans despite begging, and laugh while you do it. Of course, there needs to be as many red cups as possible.
Please take photos and send them to us on social media — especially if you’re pouring out your Florida friend’s Kenny Chesney branded rum into a trash can.
3. The Crowd
Ten acres of The Grove may seem like a lot, but put around 5,000 tents up, and you will basically be tailgating on top of other people. It’s part southern revival, part Arabian market, and 100 percent what makes the experience at the Grove. The humming vibrancy of conversations, finding old friends and making new friends in the madness, the energy of a gameday brimming and nearly boiling over prior to kickoff. It can’t be manufactured, it’s the magic of SEC football.
The Crowd in 2020: The bumping and “excuse me’s” don’t have to go away. If you have a guest bathroom, or even a closet, gather close friends and family in the same space. Sit like that for a few hours, turn off the AC, and you won’t even know the difference.
4. Trashcan Friday
Nothing says the Grove quite like red and blue trashcans. When they are placed in the Grove, it signals another home game has finally arrived. It’s like the first Christmas presents placed under a tree — the big day is so close you can almost taste it. But also, like they’re just trashcans, and we’ve totally never teared up over them the first time they are put out in the fall. For sure, no way.
Trashcan Friday in 2020: Head to your local Wal-Mart and purchase red and blue spray-paint, along with a few giant trashcans. Spray paint them, and then strategically place them throughout your house so that no matter where you step, you are running into one.
Do this on Friday, so the entire house is on notice the game is on very soon, and no, we’re not watching a rerun of America’s Got Talent, kids, TURN IT OFF.
5. Dressing to the nines
Yeah, Ole Miss isn’t the ONLY school to do this - plenty of other schools in the south will be dotted with sun dresses, sport coats, ties, and the latest of Vineyard Vines apparel. But you don’t see College Gameday sporting seersucker everywhere they go - it’s part of the Grove allure that fans come dressed up and ready to show out.
Some curmudgeons hate it, because they have a closet full of Faded Glory khaki shorts and ill-fitting Ole Miss polos and just “wanna focus on the dadgum’d game for Pete’s sake!” Cool, this isn’t for you then.
Dressing to the nines in 2020: Pretty simple, dress out just like you always would. If guests show up to watch the game, they will be impressed you care so much and give you compliments undoubtedly. You can never over-dress for an occasion, folks.
6. FOOD AND DRINK
Why is this in all caps? Because it’s freakin’ food and drink my guys and gals. This is Mississippi, we love our food like we love our football - in copious amounts, non-stop, until we’re crying from pain of consumption. Deviled eggs, chicken tendies, dips, smoked meats, bacon, chili, duck poppers, corn dog bouquets, replica stadiums made of cold cuts — the weather has begun to cool, so it’s OK to start packing on that extra layer of fatty insulation for deer season.
FOOD AND DRINK in 2020: I guess it’s more tricky to do a full blown Grove buffet with all the COVID stuff out there, but it doesn’t mean single servings of nearly everything can’t be prepared for mass consumption. Get some small cast iron skillets for queso. Buy every ramakin at Bed, Bath and Beyond for hot dips. Slap some gloves on and make 1,000 pimento cheese triangle sammiches already.
Yes, it’s work, but football is actually here after we thought it possibly wouldn’t be — GET TO IT.
While losing a season of the Grove might come with an identity crisis, there is still football. Ole Miss has Lane Kiffin as a coach, official powder blue jerseys, and one hell of a backfield. There is still a lot to be excited about! Lock arms before the game and get your gear ready. It’s almost game-day.