Commentary

Nothin' like a Hotty Toddy party to kick off Saturday

Originally Published: October 12, 2007
By Mary Buckheit | ESPN.com

OXFORD, Miss. -- Beneath the patchwork and the paisley; behind the seersucker, Skoal and Sperry Top-Siders -- it's another world in The Grove.

Literally, until you've seen it, you can't imagine what goes on at Ole Miss for a game day.

In the center of campus at a place called The Grove, fans gather in a crock pot filled with football and formal. I'd call it a tailgate, but I'm not sure that accurately describes the catered tabletops with candelabras under tents toting chandeliers and Direct TV dishes.

While I'm still not sure I can define hoddy toddy, I'm certain I saw it last Saturday. It smelled like cologne, and bourbon, and brownies, and barbeque. It had names like Langston, and Kyle, and Caroline. It looked a little like golf and tennis and sailing. But it was really just football at the University of Mississippi.

Are you ready? Ralph Lauren eat your heart out.

The University of Mississippi is big on unofficial emblems. Shoot, the entire institution operates under an alias. So, Colonel Reb isn't the official mascot, "Dixie" isn't the official anthem, and while folks in Florida and Georgia might have officially cornered the market on big outdoor cocktail parties, Ole Miss unofficially has nabbed the best.

Mary Buckheit/ESPN.com

It's never too hot for Hotty Toddy Party in Mississippi.

I'm pretty sure that Polo is the unofficial apparel sponsor of Ole Miss. While it might look like we crashed a wedding on the Vineyard, this is actual a snapshot of the standard attire for football game-going frat brothers. Business casual couldn't cut it around here. And neither would a buzz cut. Perfectly pressed khakis, loafers, button downs, ties and blue blazers aren't some extraordinary paradigm, they're the norm for the gentlemen of Ole Miss and their full-feathered comb-overs.

Ralph Braseth

Rebels fans take a formal approach to football.

Not to be outdone, the fairer sex also breaks out their Sunday best on Saturdays in Oxford. For the ladies, nothing but a cocktail dress and heels will do.

Mary Buckheit/ESPN.com

Female fans show they're just as well-heeled as the boys.

Spilling over about 10 acres of campus real estate, shaded by oak trees lies the legendary grassy patch. Coeds, catering servants, kids and alumni sporting class rings the size of tea candles gather under tents in The Grove for the festivities, many arriving before 6 a.m. On its way to the stadium a few hours before kickoff, the football team makes its way under the arch and into the sea of grovers. During the party, the arch makes for great fun and photo ops that assure you are partying like a champion.

Mary Buckheit/ESPN.com

Before each game, fans and players alike walk through the "Walk of Champions" arc, which was donated by Ole Miss' only undefeated team, the 1962 Rebels.

As a New Englander transplanted to Southern California, I had a lot to learn in Mississippi . Lucky for me, the little niblets of the Dixie Dance Company were kind enough to teach me the Hoddy Toddy cheer. Are you ready (for the G-rated version)? "Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty, Who are we? Hey! Flim Flam, Bim Bam, Ole Miss, Yes Ma'am!"

Ralph Braseth

Fandom in the SEC starts at a very early age.

Only the food spread can steal the spotlight from the fashion show. They serve up anything you can imagine in The Grove … most under chandeliers, on table cloths with silver-plated servers, lots of lace and designer doilies. But in a sea of hors d'oeuvres and highbrows, barbeque still has authority and this tricked out grill was a thing of beauty.

Mary Buckheit/ESPN.com

No Southern football Saturday would be complete without a healthy dose of barbeque.

I don't Grove and tell.

Mary Buckheit/ESPN.com

Southern hospitality reigns in the Grove, but that doesn't mean they're sharing all of their secrets.

Mary Buckheit is a Page 2 columnist. She can be reached at marybuckheit@hotmail.com.

Mary Buckheit started as ESPN.com's college intern in 2000. She signed on full-time as an editor in 2002 and became a Page 2 Columnist in 2006. She went west to cover life in California, the UFC, AVP, X Games and anything else she can dig up under the sun.