Tailgating Mississippi Style, Part 1

Mississippi fans approach college football games with a passion bordering on religious fervor. Saturdays in the South are often planned around football schedules from September to November’s end. Teams may win or lose games, but Mississippi always triumphs at tailgating.

Visitors will want to be prepared to experience Mississippi’s distinctive tailgating styles. Here are a few tips to help you tackle a football weekend in Starkville, Oxford or Hattiesburg.

Mississippi State University – Starkville

1. The Tradition

Who needs a chant? MSU fans celebrate the Bulldog’s advances with none other than the cowbell. The origins of this tradition are arguable, but one thing is certain: the cowbell is here to stay. BYOC (Bring Your Own Cowbell) to the game. The Lodge sells cowbells in varying sizes and styles. Please remember to #ringresponsibly and abide by the rules. Pro tip: You may want to bring earplugs to the game.

2. What to Wear?

Even if it’s a white out or black out weekend, State fans always sport a little of their school’s signature color. This fan base also proudly dons jeans and cowboy boots to their games.

3. The Souvenir

Don’t miss the MSU Cheese store, or officially the “MAFES Sales Store.” The Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Dairy Manufacturing plant creates several products, including the big red balls of MSU’s famous and delectable Edam cheese, the ultimate souvenir from Starkville.

4. The Off-Campus Place to Be

Popular among university students, the Cotton District comes alive for pre- and post-game fun. Check out Bulldog Burger Co., Little Dooey’s barbeque or City Bagel Café for budget-friendly, locally owned fare. If libations are in order, Bin 612 is a favorite Cotton District spot.

5. The Team Tradition

Two hours before the start of the game, make your way to the Junction, a pedestrian park chock full of tailgating tents and Bulldog fans, for the Dawg Walk. Football players, coaches and mascot “Bully” proudly walk through the Junction to Davis Wade Stadium.

Ole Miss – Oxford

1. The Tradition

Vaught-Hemingway stadium may house the main event on game day, but the action begins and ends at The Grove. Likened to a block party with tents, this is tailgating with uncompromising flair and style. You’ll marvel at the chandeliers, antique silver platters and flat screen TVs glowing under otherwise unassuming tailgate tents. Pro tip: Drinking directly from a bottle or can is a faux pas in The Grove. Bring a cup of your own or a red or blue Solo cup.

2. The Chant

If you’ve never heard the Hotty Toddy chant before the game, you’ll know it by heart after an hour in The Grove. It’s the only appropriate response to “Are you ready?!”

3. What to Wear?

This is not your T-shirt-and-jeans crowd. Ole Miss fans have been known to dress to the nines, as in designer dresses, high heels, sport coats and ties. To play it safe, dress for a night out on the town.

4. The Team Tradition

Ole Miss football players and coaches begin their traditional journey to Vaught Hemingway stadium by way of a brick sidewalk bisecting The Grove. Known as the “Walk of Champions,” the fan favorite begins about two hours before kickoff, and fans crowd both sides of the walkway to cheer on the Rebels.

5. The Off-Campus Place to Be

The courthouse square is Oxford’s epicenter. Game days transform the busy town square into Oxford’s upscale version of Bourbon Street. Square fixtures like City Grocery, Ajax Diner and Bouré offer fans a superb repast. Visit the Burgundy Room above City Grocery Restaurant to enjoy a drink and spot famous Mississippians who frequent the watering hole.

Southern Miss – Hattiesburg

1. Tailgating Style

The tailgating scene throughout the Southern Miss campus is amped up with excitement on game day, but The District is where the action is. Largely populated by USM students plus a DJ or band, the vibe of the district is a lively one. For a tamer tailgating experience, fans may want to opt for a more relaxed setting near the Rose Garden or the Dome.

2. The Chant

Do the letters SMTTT mean anything to you? “Southern Miss To The Top” is the battle cry of the Golden Eagles. Be prepared to see “SMTTT” scrawled on everything from koozies to onesies on game day. Remember, when someone yells, “Southern Miss,” the only acceptable response is, “To The Top!”

3. What to Wear?

Black and gold are the colors of choice at a Southern Miss game. As for level of dress, think somewhere between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Dressy casual wins the day.

4. The Team Tradition

In the spirited tradition of Southern Miss, the Eagle Walk is a game day parade. The Pride of Mississippi band marches Southern Miss players, athletic staff and university officials through campus to M.M. Roberts Stadium, a.k.a., The Rock.

5. Food and Drink

If you don’t want to travel far, check out Marlin’s Bar & Grill or Glory Bound Gyro, both directly across from the stadium. Hardy Street also offers plenty of options. For the craft beer aficionado, the Keg & Barrel features a selection of 120-plus beers. Other noteworthy establishments are Crescent City Grill, Purple Parrot Café and Mahogany Bar, all within the same building on Hardy Street.