Imagine a party lasting hours, with more than 100,000 people, unlimited drinks, music, including even bands, everywhere, hundreds of flat screen TVs blasting, and even the occasional celebrity could show up.
Could this actually happen in such a fairly reserved small town such as Oxford?
That is the Grove every Saturday, prior to every home Ole Miss football game, with this immense version of tailgating only known to Oxford as “Groving.”
The Grove is a 10-acre wooded area, scattered with magnolias and oak trees, providing shade for students studying, relaxing or just walking through the heart of the Ole Miss campus. On gameday, however, the overflow of tents and fans will help to provide a source of income and jobs for the city.
There are spot savers, tent setup businesses, rentable toilets, landscaping services, and clean-up crews who all help to provide part-time or full-time jobs to many. Just about anyone – regardless of age – can get involved with making a job out of Groving.
“I get to go to work in an environment that other people go to play, meaning my office is a bucket-list experience, so it’s really an awesome thing to be able to make an income around something that is so desired by so many people,” said Kyle Thornton.
Thornton started up his tailgating setup company as a sophomore in college to pay for his Ole Miss tuition. His first year starting the business, in 2009, he had only seven tents; now his company sets up around 370 tents.
It doesn’t have to be college students getting involved, the whole community can join. There are multiple people at OHS to work for a tent setup service – students and teachers alike.
“I need money for a car, so that’s what I’m doing,” said OHS senior Harry Tyner, who’s cashing in on the tailgating business in Oxford. “It’s an experience; that’s the only way I know how to say it.”
Tyner works for a tent setup company, working every Friday and Saturday Ole Miss home football game weekends, setting up and breaking down tents and providing all the amenities:: such as chairs, coolers, televisions, carpets and even chandeliers.
OHS social studies teacher Daniel Parrish got in on the Grove action. Parrish works for SevenSouth Tailgating. His hours usually start and end several hours before kickoff.
Unlike many of the high schoolers or college students who work for a tent setup company, his job does not involve the actual setup but rather meeting and showing the customers to their tents while giving them a tour of campus along the way.
“I think that it is a positive experience for our students because it gives them a good work ethic and it gives us an opportunity to make some money that falls outside of the school week,” Parrish said.
This 10-acre patch of land makes tremendous transformations from gameday to just an average day for campus. It hosts many events for the entire community.
“The Grove, it’s just an icon,” Tyner said. “It’s Oxford in a picture. It’s beautiful. It’s really just a magically place for people to come together, and people can be friends no matter where they are from.”