Tuesday, August 16, 2022

11. Tailgate Group Gives UM Band its Own Walk of Champions

Todd Wade and Powe’s Catfish Shack join together with the band.

 

The Ole Miss Rebel football team famously walks through the Grove en route to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on game day, giving fans the opportunity to cheer them on. But, in 2009, former Rebel footballer and NFL standout Todd Wade felt that the Pride of the South Ole Miss Band, an integral part of game day, was left unsung. Sure, the band performs in the Grove and then marches down University Avenue before the game, but the musicians—sweating and toiling away for scholarships—didn’t get that high-fiving, celebrity experience that the football players get down the Walk of Champions, Wade observed.

Wade and his fellow tailgaters at a tent affectionally dubbed Powe’s Catfish Shack are positioned next to the sidewalk on which the band walks from the Grove stage to get in formation on University Avenue, near Ventress Hall. The tailgate group noticed that fans walked across the sidewalk, obstructing the band’s progress, with no regard to the hard-working knights in polyester. That had to change. The Pride of the South, they decided, deserved respect. The group cordoned off that section of sidewalk—to the consternation of many people trying to cross it—and blared inspiring music from the tent stereo. A fog machine adds an element of theater and drama to the proceedings.

“Since the band is such an integral part of Ole Miss sports, we really want the band to feel just how important they are to our fan base,” says Wade. “The use of music set with heavy doses of fog give the band a smaller but comparable out-of-the-tunnel football type event that only football teams get to experience. The use of the roped sidewalk gives the band an uninterrupted path to University Avenue and at the same time teaches many of the disrespectful fans that they should get out of the band’s way. Each home game, people are catching on that this is truly something special.”

When the practice began, just a handful of Powe’s members would try to isolate the sidewalk. A few years later, more fans unaffiliated with Powe’s join in to help block both sides so the Pride can make their transition from stage to street. Rebs hold their toddies in one hand and high-five band members with the other, yelling “Hotty Toddy!” “Go Rebs!” and, most importantly, “Thank you!”

“We noticed the band was having a difficult time relocating from the Grove stage to University Avenue to get set up for the march to the stadium, so we started trying to police the traffic,” says Powe’s member Ryan Annison. “The next game we had some caution tape, which didn’t work very well. By the next season (Powe’s member) Stewart Rutledge brought some rope, and to my knowledge, we haven’t missed a game since.”

Last season, even Olivia Manning helped hold up the mountain-climbing rope the gang uses to line the walk. To paraphrase Henry Hill from Goodfellas, you wanna know why? It was outta respect.

Full disclosure: The writer is a former member of the Powe’s Catfish Shack tailgate and is biased enough to tell you that the band walk is one of the best parts of game day.

— Tad Wilkes, tad.wilkes@hottytoddy.com

Powe's Catfish Shack
A 2012 gathering at Powe’s Catfish Shack. From left: Cameron “Cambino” Wilson, Ken Edwards, John Scott, Tad Wilkes, Ross Bjork, Pete Roussel, Gantt Hickman, and David Calhoun.
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