Locking the Vaught. The red, white, and blue. The crowds and tents that fill the grove every Saturday. Eighteen miles an hour. The Mannings. The booming crescendo as an entire stadium raises their pom-poms and shouts, “Hotty Toddy.”
These are the traditions that define us, that set us apart from other universities. The Hotty Toddy chant, the grove, and the Walk of Champions are three prevalent traditions that have become cornerstones in Ole Miss culture even outside the sphere of sports.
But where did they come from?
The words “Hotty Toddy” have several meanings. Sometimes, it is a warm greeting, other times, a lively yet intimidating cheer.
There are several theories surrounding the origins of the “Hotty Toddy” cheer, which first appeared in a 1926 copy of The Mississippian student newspaper. These words appeared in that newpaper:
Gosh A Mighty!
Who in the h—l are we?
Rim! Ram! Flim! Flam!
Ole Miss, by D—n!”
Then, it was written as “Heighty Tighty,” leading some to believe it was originally a reference to the Virginia Tech Regimental Band “Heighty Tighties.”
Others surmise that it may be a reference to the phrase “hoity-toity.” The phrase, which means “highfalutin” or snobbish perhaps signifies the perception of Ole Miss students as preppy, well-dressed people. But most fans have their own special definitions.
“For me, it means family,” said junior Reagan Horton, a generational Ole Miss fan. “I have over thirty cousins and we have a yearly reunion at an Ole Miss game.”
Junior Taylor Middleton defined “Hotty Toddy” as meaning “everything all at once. It’s a greeting, a congratulations, and a hell yeah, damn right,” she said.
However one decides to define it, “Hotty Toddy” is perhaps the strongest Ole Miss tradition. It is recited in its full glory at every home game, and is the only true answer to the question “are you ready?” To hear it and to say it is to love it.
Known as the “Holy Grail of Tailgating,” the grove at Ole Miss is home to the greatest tailgating experience in all of college football. Once serving as a recreation field during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the grove began to evolve during the 1950s as fans started gathering there on Saturdays.
Over time, red and blue tents began sprouting up in the 1990s, eventually taking over the entire field. Soon, the grove and its splendor became an integral part of Ole Miss culture as families claimed spots and turned their tents into fine dining areas, complete with chandeliers and candelabras. Tables are piled high with finger-foods, fruit, and other delicacies that well-dressed fans snack on as they weave through the crowds.
Only one thing can part these seas of tailgating people.
The Walk of Champions
Two hours before each game, there is a thundering boom as mallets beat against drums. There is a shimmering of silver pom-poms, and the pounding of cleats against the pavement as the Ole Miss Rebels gather beneath the arch at the Walk of Champions.
Erected in honor of the 1962 Ole Miss football team, the only one in University history to have a perfect season, the arch has served as the Walk of Champions trailhead since 1998. The team cuts through the grove, walking from the student union to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. As they pass, they high-five the fans’ outstretched hands. It is an experience you do not want to miss.
First-timers spend their Saturday in awe, amazed by the good spirits and classic Southern hospitality. It is a culture that cannot be recreated in any other town or on any other campus; the grove is as unique as the words “Hotty Toddy.” There is a reason Ole Miss fans claim that they have “never lost a party,” and it is all thanks to the magic and grandeur of grove tailgating.
It is hard to imagine an Ole Miss gameday without hearing the question, “Are you ready?” or seeing the grove swathed in Harvard crimson and Yale blue. A game could never start without being preceded by a Walk of Champions or locking the Vaught.
These unique traditions are what define us as Rebel fans, and are what bring us together. A simple “Hotty Toddy” from a stranger can make your day. Remembering Saturdays spent in the grove can bring a smile to your face. Perhaps it was the passion and fanaticism surrounding Ole Miss that made Frank E. Everett Jr. say that “[while] the University is respected; Ole Miss is loved.” Our days as university students may be numbered and fly by fast, but these traditions will never leave us, for “one never truly graduates from Ole Miss.”