Football and Mardi Gras

Tailgating on the Grove at Ole Miss before a football game is like Mardi Gras in Mobile, AL.

I am a displaced coastal resident spending time in a Southern college town where my husband works and my son attends school. It’s football season and Ole Miss is the place to be this season. So, while visiting with friends at their party spot on the Grove (a section of the campus designated as a tailgating area), I noticed the similarities to Gulf Coast Mardi Gras season.

Mardi Gras consists of Krewes boldly named with wide range and number of members or participants. You’ll find the Mobile Mystics, Krewe de la Dauphine, Knights of Ecor Rouge, Order of the Polka Dots, to name a few. But you don’t have to be a Krewe member to join the fun. Just show up at a parade and join in. There are private parties around town and if you know anyone, you may just get invited. The region parties on either designated days (scheduled parades) or on any day of the Mardi Gras season.

Krewe members and party goers dress fantastically, individually or to a group theme. Food, decorations, and designated spots to meet are arranged like a wedding reception. Party goers clutch their beloved Solo Cups. Alcohol flows and doubloons are tossed. Parade attendees collect their booty in bags, like children on Halloween night. The noise level reaches untold decibels. You can hear music, laughter, and maybe a Krewe or organization’s chant or cheer can be heard above the revelry. “Hey Mister, throw me something” is the thing to say to the passing parade floats. Everyone shouts it.

It’s all over by midnight.

Mardi Gras in Mobile and the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay is a highly recommended tourist experience. It is family friendly (compared to New Orleans) and a lot of the parades are during the day on the weekends.

Ole Miss Rebel football tailgating in the Grove is another experience for your bucket list, if you have one.

Tents are set up the night before each home game and each tent is boldly named so the participants can find each other. You will find “Black Jack Rebels”, “The Dixie Dozen”, “The Groove Tent”, “Aging Rebels”, to name a few. Some groups simply have the family last name printed on the tent. But if you don’t know anyone, you can usually find a hospitality tent to join, grab some food and just hang out and make some friends. Each tent contains a buffet table with planned menu items or pot-luck selection, flowers in vases, flags, lighting, and other decorations. Some tents house a large flat screen to watch pre-game shows and for those left behind to party during the game. Not everyone gets a ticket for a seat in the stadium.

Ole Miss football fans dress fantastically but according to traditional Oxford-Southern style; a theme. This means on designated home-game days you’re instructed to wear either red or blue. It’s not a choice; you wear the color of the day and you wear it in style: dresses (short or long, sleeveless or sleeved); heals, cowgirl boots or sandals; done-up hair and lots of hairspray and makeup. Guys can get away with khakis, an Ole Miss polo shirt or dress shirt and bow tie. Of course, some do show up a bit more casual but for the most part you dress up like you’re going to church.

Alcohol flows and those of drinking age (wink, wink) clutch their red or blue Solo Cups. Women carry their necessities in stylish purses usually of school colors to match their outfits. No doubloons here, but half-pint Rebel fans toss footballs where ever there’s a clear area to do so. Be sure to keep your drink in your hand and your eyes up in case a tossed pigskin flies your way.

The noise level reaches untold decibels. Music plays, fans chatter, the marching band parades by and fans cheer while the team heads down the Walk Of Champions. And don’t forget to memorize the Rebel Yell. You’ll need to be prepared when someone in the crowd just randomly yell “Are you ready?” at which point everyone responds:

Hell Yeah! Damn Right!
Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almighty,
Who The Hell Are We? Hey!
Flim Flam, Bim Bam
Ole Miss By Damn!

The Grove closes at midnight following the game.

The party atmosphere, named groups banding together to celebrate in high style, dressing up, drinking from Solo Cups, parades, tossing stuff, shutting down at midnight and a distinct seasonal chant tie Ole Miss football and Gulf Coast Mardi Gras together. So, if you enjoy revelry and the excitement that only crowds can provide, try them both: Ole Miss football in the fall, and Gulf Coast Mardi Gras in late winter. Football and Mardi Gras … two amazing Southern traditions.