Southern hospitality is thriving in Oxford, Mississippi. People in the South pride themselves on extending a warm and friendly welcome to everyone that they meet. The town of Oxford is the epitome of this tradition. My family made the long journey from Savannah to Oxford to watch the Georgia Bulldogs play the Ole Miss Rebels in late September. Georgia football is one of my husband and son’s favorite activities, and as a bonus, I orchestrated the trip to qualify as an official college visit for my son.
A large group of Savannahians joined us on our tour of the Ole Miss campus. As we wandered around the beautiful grounds, I was impressed with the landscaping, the buildings, the people and the energy of the place. It was refreshing to see that kindness extended from the students who led the tour to the administration of the university. I managed to get separated from our group, and a distinguished gentleman approached me to offer his assistance. He was delightful, helpful and just happened to be the provost of the university.
The quaint town of Oxford was alive that evening. We wandered into a packed “local establishment” for a quick drink and a chance to check out some local entertainment. A brush with Fox News anchor and Ole Miss alumnus, Shepard Smith, was very exciting. We tried not to stare, but we just could not resist. My friend Anne approached him, and with true Southern charm, he welcomed her with kind words and a quick kiss on the cheek.
Saturday, the day of the game, was fabulous. The weather was perfect, and the Grove, the tailgating epicenter of Ole Miss, was filled with gracious people ready to welcome us with a sandwich, brownie or cold drink. Row after row of tents jammed the 10-acre field, and all were precisely lined up and decorated with flowers, chandeliers and big-screen televisions. It was evident from the wide range of ages that many families had been tailgating in the Grove for generations. Hospitality was the theme, and it seemed that the impending athletic event was just a small part of the celebration.
A sampling of fan friendly decorations used at an Ole Miss tailgate. Courtesy of Tanya McBride-Churchill.
At the game, we sat in the middle of Ole Miss fans. They really wanted to win but were still very friendly to us. Both sides congratulated each other on good plays and even though the game ended in Georgia’s favor, the Ole Miss supporters continued to be gracious in defeat. At the Grove’s postgame tailgate, it was all about food, fun and fellowship—for both teams’ fans.
The moral of this story: Win or lose, good sportsmanship outshines any athletic competition. And the Grove filled with tents, traditions and nice people is still about as Southern as it gets.
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