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Tusk to Tail: Off to the Grove to see Rebels, Bears and Sharks, oh my

Week One is in the books, and we are off to Oxford this coming Saturday (Sept. 7). On the fun side, the game is slated for 6:30 p.m. on the SEC Network, one of the few guaranteed night games for the Hogs. On the not-so-fun side, the weather is forecasted to be sunny and 96, with humidity ranging anywhere from rain forest to sauna.

Two years ago, it was a surprisingly cold 11 a.m. game. Two years before that we had a night game for the Hunter Heave, plus we had been blessed with a cool day and evening once the rain had passed.

Either way, the Grove will be packed. But with dry, warm weather you can count on the folks in Oxford to be decked out in their finest. Oxford is one of the last places in college football where people truly make an effort to dress for the game. It was like that when I was younger attending games in Fayetteville, but you don’t see it as much anymore. It pretty much has to be perfect weather or homecoming for everyone to go the extra mile to dress up and stay comfortable here in Arkansas and most of the places we visit on the road.

As far as tailgating, the Grove is as neat as you have heard. Imagine the same number of folks that gather on the golf course in Little Rock, all jammed into a space about the size of the front lawn of Ole Main. It’s just tent upon tent upon tent. These are primarily the pop up 10×10 variety but in recent years, you do see more of the industrial white tents like we utilize in Fayetteville.

You don’t really see anything more innovative than what you might see here on The Hill or any other town in the college football universe technology wise, but what you do see is décor. The ladies in Oxford really take ownership of the tailgates, and dress them up and theme them. You will see nice table clothes, table toppers and center pieces, and interesting lighting options including chandeliers. In my opinion, it’s a little easier to pull off as most of the tents are no bigger than 10×10 or 20×10 and have less guests, but I do appreciate the effort.

You have to consider that the tents have to be set up the night before. Much like our new arrangements, you have to drop off and carry your gear into the Grove. The nice part is that the University of Mississippi administration really appreciates what they have, and tries to promote and assist it. They have added electricity to every tree in the Grove, so no generators, and thus no excess noise. Grills are also forbidden, so no smoke to leave everyone choking or smelling of barbecue all day.

You can just walk from aisle to aisle taking it all in. Perhaps you will run into someone you know or get invited into a tent for a beer and a bite. It is definitely one of the spots every tailgater or fan of college football should visit.

However, as Ole Miss experienced some recent success, the administration was forced to really clamp down on parking and reserve it for ticket holders. So if you don’t have a parking pass, the entire campus is difficult to access for visiting fans. Most are left parking blocks away and tailgating close to where they park.

This trip we have secured a pass from a father in Law who happened to play at Ole Miss so we are hopeful it will be close to the stadium. On a side note, The Grove is not near the stadium, it’s about an 8- to 10-minute walk from the stadium. With the expected heat, we will not make it an all-day affair. Depending on our parking location, we may eat lunch in Memphis and head down after, still leaving a nice 4 hours of tailgating.

If this is your first visit to Oxford, you have some options. Head over to Memphis and stay Friday night there before going to campus early the next morning. Or sleep in, eat some barbecue for lunch in Memphis and then head down to Oxford. It’s an easy 90 minute drive from Memphis to Oxford, but don’t wait too long. There are only two roads into Oxford for the majority of fans traveling from the North or West of Oxford. You can take Highway 7 out of Holly Springs or Interstate 55 South out of Memphis down to Batesville. It will get crowded and backed up so try to be in town no later than 5 p.m.

If you are closer or staying in Oxford, some great places worth checking out are as follows: Big Bad Breakfast; St Leo Lounge; Ajax Diner; City Grocery; Taylor Grocery (a little outside of town); Rebel Barn BBQ (also outside of town but worth the drive); Handy Andy Burgers; and Gus’s Fried Chicken (one of our favorite spots).

Go Hogs! Beat Rebels, Bears, Sharks or whatever else they have come up with!

Editor’s note: Now in its eighth year, Tusk to Tail is the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise for more than a decade. The primary focus of Tusk to Tail will be to follow the Hogs through the fans’ perspective with their insightful, irreverent, smart-alecky and sometimes practical style. Tusk to Tail sponsors are the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship program and Turn Key Construction Management. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter and Instagram, all @TuskToTail.

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