As I prepared for my trip to Oxford last week, I was told the Grove at Ole Miss would blow me away, that it was in fact better than any tailgating experience I had ever been a part of – even the Quad. This seemed impossible, so, in order to find out myself I decided to put it to a test. I separated the challenge into three categories: atmosphere, tailgating essentials and, of course, girls. Here are the results.
Upon walking into the Grove I was shocked by how crowded it was. The volume of people vastly surpassed that of the Quad.
“It is pretty similar, except at the Grove it is way closer,” Alabama student Allie Sequeira said. “I feel at Alabama we have more space, but I feel like Ole Miss has way more decorations and stuff.”
The close and comfy setting led to more of a community atmosphere. Everywhere I went tailgaters were offering me food, a place to sit, a drink, all for the secret password – Hotty Toddy.
“All the people here are very nice,” Alabama student Jared Helton said. “People I just met were like, ‘bring a chair over.’ I went and got food and everything.”
However, not everybody shared my enthusiasm of the Grove. Alabama student Tripp Shields pointed out that Alabama fans share more pride in their team at the Quad.
“I feel like at the Quad there is a lot more energy,” Shields said. “People are really excited to watch their team. Here people are kind of walking around with their heads down. At Alabama a lot more people are excited about their team.”
My verdict: Advantage Grove. The Grove was full of energy. Not only were the people very friendly, there was a sense of togetherness everywhere I went. The Grove is a place where you can come in knowing no one and leave knowing everyone.
One thing I found out pretty soon on my trip was that nobody – nobody – partied like Ole Miss. One of the most creative tents I found was owned by long-time Ole Miss tailgater Jan Waddell. The tent featured beautiful white columns that doubled as dispensers of various mixed drinks. If there is one thing you can say about Ole Miss fans, they are creative.
“We may not win all the football games, but we have never lost a party,” Waddell said. “We love our football team and we get really excited for them.”
The pure number of drinks and food that each tent had was truly amazing. That, mixed with the hospitality of Ole Miss fans, created an awesome gameday experience.
“I love the Quad more because it is Alabama,” Helton said. “But the Grove is really nice, I enjoy it.”
The Grove was also unique in that it was all done by individuals, not companies; this allowed for a more fan-oriented experience, where fans provided everything.
“Alabama has the tools to be great,” Waddell said. “But they commercialize it too much. If they did it like this and didn’t allow in commercial tailgates, they could have the Grove, or close too it.”
My verdict: Advantage Grove. You can find everything you need on game day inside the Grove. If that doesn’t cut it for you, double-decker busses will take you, for free, inside the city where you can explore even more of what Ole Miss has to offer.
This was probably the toughest part of the competition of the challenge to judge. Both schools are known for having the prettiest girls in the SEC, and Ole Miss did not disappoint.
“They are really nice over here,” Helton said. “I don’t know, it is a close tie. I’ve seen some pretty girls from Alabama and I’ve seen some really pretty girls from Ole Miss.”
My verdict: Advantage Quad. This was hard, as both the Grove and the Quad are home to some of the south’s finest and classiest women. However, there is something about a beautiful Bama belle on game day that just cannot be beat.
Final decision: Advantage Grove
Overall, this was a close call. Both tailgates are college football classics, however, the Grove proved to be a little more intense. The mixture of hospitality and creativeness eventually proved to be enough to put the Grove over the top. In the end people were right, the Grove did blow my mind.
“There is no comparison,” Waddell said. “Honestly the Grove, there is a reason this is called the holy grail of tailgating. There is no where like this.”