Has anyone else noticed the ‘capitalization’ of the Grove?

The high price of a tent on game day is taking away from the culture

The Grove at Ole Miss has long been known for it’s hospitality on game days, but lately the friendly and welcoming culture of the tailgating mecca has somewhat diminished.

Organizations and families that have long held prime real estate in the Grove are now erecting fences around their tents and hoisting signs discouraging fellow fans from walking through “their” space.

If ‘real estate’ seems like a funny word to describe the Grove, you might be surprised by how apt the term really is. Starting in the 90s, but growing exponentially since, scores of companies have made it their business to sell tent space to those willing to pay.

As of 2015, the University began approving “vendors” who don orange vests and help set up tents for their employers. Despite differing company loyalties, these vendors often work together to make the temporary city of tents as organized as possible.

While this practice has certainly helped make the Friday evening transformations of the Grove more efficient and practical – especially for older fans and alumni – it also has engendered a false sense of ownership to high spenders. “I paid 500 dollars for this tent. You’re not walking through it.”

Meanwhile students (you know, those people who pay tuition?) are castigated for trying to get from one friend’s tent to the other.

After Texas played in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in 2012, one Longhorn lauded Rebel fans who went out of their way to welcome and entertain those wearing burnt orange.

“Everyone is free as can be to move about as they please, courtesy is an unbroken code, and the more that squeeze in, the merrier it seems to get.”

This spirit of camaraderie despite rivalry ranks among Ole Miss’ finest attributes. In more hostile SEC environments, you may get yelled at or even attacked for shouting your school’s cheer near home fans. But in the Grove, we pride ourselves in extending a hand, a beer, or just some good ole conversation to visitors and fellow Rebels alike.

So why are we building fences now? Well to start, it truly can be costly to organize an impressive tent in the grove. Companies like Get Your Grove On have perfected the art of the set-up, but the cost for this service can range from $100 to well over $300 depending on the size and number of tents and the option to rent a generator, a TV, and a satellite dish. Other costs include catering and decorations. Tents that go all out will boast chandeliers, huge floral displays, tablecloths, string lights, and (heck, why not?) even frozen daiquiri machines!

When a tent’s that expensive, it’s understandable to be a little protective. Still, the high price of a tent on game day seems to be taking away from the culture of hospitality for which the Grove is known.

There will always be belligerent fans tripping on your TV wires or waiting to snag a sandwich from your buffet, but that’s what you signed up for when you lugged a TV and a buffet into the public space. Should the response really be fences and possessiveness? As for through-traffic, that’s just part of the experience. Surely you didn’t pay for your tent to be right next to the Walk of Champions because you hated seeing people! Stuck next to a tent full of wild college students? Remind yourself where you are and why you’re there – if not to party with students, at least to revel in their culture. It’s our grove until we graduate and join the ranks of cranky adults with “jobs” and “incomes.”

In all other areas of our lives, modern society dictates we be prudent and weary of exploitation – don’t show him that research or he’ll get the promotion over you; lock your doors at night; give generously, but only to those who have credit. At least on these few beautiful days in the Fall, with friends, family, and fellow fans all around, we have a unique opportunity to let loose, to give freely, to approach every new face with a smile and a “hotty toddy.”

Take the opportunity before Monday comes around and you find yourself anywhere but the Grove at Ole Miss.

Ole Miss: University of Mississippi