The third week of our Tailgating SEC Style brought OneSouthernMan to Starkville, MS, where the Mississippi State Bulldogs hosted the LSU Tigers on a beautiful and hot, Southern Saturday. MSU fans turned out en masse for their first conference game and neither the pregame festivities nor the game should have disappointed Bulldog supporters.
This was my first visit to “StarkVegas,” and the MSU campus. I was impressed with the ease of getting around, especially in locating a convenient parking spot. Mississippi State, historically known for their colleges of engineering and agriculture, has an expansive campus with ample room for tailgaters to spread out.
Arriving on campus a little after one o’clock for the six p.m. kickoff, my companion, who just happened to have been a former MSU cheerleader, and I decided to explore the tailgate scene before meeting our host and longtime friend, Greg Livingston, from Memphis, TN. Not knowing exactly where to start, our tailgating instincts directed us toward Davis Wade Stadium. MSU has a number of event staffers available to help fans navigate the campus on game days, and we were fortunate enough to hitch a ride on a chauffeured golf cart.
We landed near Barnes & Noble bookstore, not far from the campus amphitheater that plays hosts to a number of concerts each year. One aspect I enjoy on college game day is watching visiting fans interact with their home team counterparts for some friendly (most of the time) pregame banter. Purple and gold jerseys dotted the landscape as a handful of LSU faithful wandered among the MSU tents, often being invited to stop in to enjoy food and beverages, no doubt on maroon and white plates.
No tailgate – at least any respectable Southern one – would be complete without an ample supply of food and conversation. Walking in Christine & Joe Krivanec’s “Coast Dawg” tent, I could tell their guests would not leave hungry. The Biloxi Mississippi natives spread included barbecue, jambalaya and plenty of side dishes and sweets to feed their small army of MSU fans. The Krivanec’s son, a graduate engineering student with a registered patent to his credit, have been tailgating at MSU for years and relish the time with family and friends.
Aside from the hundreds of tents fans bring and construct themselves, Southern Tailgating and Tailgate Mississippi are two of the larger companies that provide an array of services, including tents, tables, chairs with the option to add large screen TVs and catering services for fans more inclined to walking in with little-to-no time invested in tailgating preparation.
Moving further into the maze of maroon tents, we were introduced to Sundy and Brad Bounds from Philadelphia, Mississippi. Here, we not only found true maroon Bulldog supporters, but also a semi-converted Ole Miss Rebel fan whose daughter risked losing her inheritance when she decided to attend Mississippi State.
Lance Duncan, a Staff Sargent with the National Guard, was a great sport and a faithful and admiring dad in supporting daughter Emily’s undergraduate decision. In fact, Lance was so supportive, he donned a white shirt, complete with a Tri-Delta sorority sticker to show support for his sophomore delight. However, it must be noted he refused to handle the cowbell and therefore can’t be accused of treason in a mock trial in Oxford. The Bounds crew certainly didn’t disappoint with their Southern hospitality and took it upon themselves to adopt us for an hour of so. With their ample supply of food and beverage, we found such insistence hard to resist.
About three hours before kickoff, we caught up with Greg and his fellow MSU cohorts.
He and his wife Leanne both graduated and make the trek from Memphis on a regular basis. As soon as we walked into their tent Scott Calhoon presented me with a plate of Deerbrook Cattle Company meat that was the most tender brisket I’ve tasted in ages.
Greg walked us around campus and through The Junction, which is what Bulldog fans refer to as “ground zero” and where the team exits their buses on their way to the stadium.
Lucky for us, their Southern Tailgate tent was close to the path where freshman fraternity pledges continued the long-time tradition of parading toward the stadium, ringing cowbells, which I might add, are still resonating through my ear canals. And have a mentioned fashion?
The other component of a respectable Southern tailgate includes color-coordinated apparel. While some MSU fashion choices might not make the cover of GQ, it fits perfectly when your team is on the verge of an incredible win.
Here are my take-aways from our Mississippi State visit:
- To say I was impressed was an understatement. Like the campus, the crowds were large and enthusiastic.
- Bulldog fans could not have been nicer and as I’ve written when visiting the two previous campuses, everyone offers us more food and drink than we can safely enjoy in one day.
- Arrive early. I bragged about finding a great parking spot but closer to kickoff you could find yourself walking a long way.
- The two SEC teams in Mississippi are fierce rivals but the common link is their warm, Southern hospitality.
- A special thanks to Robin & Troy Browning and their friend for the two game tickets. Wow! What a game.
Next stop: Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Is their tailgate scene as good as their football team? Tune in next week for our review.