The Tailgating Traditions of The Real Thing Tent!
An Interview With Norma McCullough by Steve Vassallo
Enjoy the second in our series of Tailgating Traditions articles sponsored by Ole Miss Tailgating where you can even order Raising Cane’s® and Chick-fil-A® for your Grove Tent!
HottyToddy.com: Norma, tell us how your tailgating group came to be.
Norma McCullough: Each family had been doing their own tailgating but a couple of families combined efforts, and since then, we’ve picked up friends along the way. It has grown into quite a tailgate family.
HottyToddy.com: When did you launch (year) and what got you and your husband, David, enthusiastic enough to join?
Norma McCullough: David and I had been tailgating with our family for the home games for several years. Approximately eight years ago, we tailgated with the Waddell’s in Tuscaloosa for the Alabama/Ole Miss game. We hit it off, so we started tailgating together after that game. Since then, our tailgate family has grown and we may have upwards to 75 people at the tailgate.
HottyToddy.com: Exactly where does The Real Thing Tailgate set up?
Norma McCullough: We set up inside the tree line of the Grove, across from the Thad Cochran building.
HottyToddy.com: Your group has at least 5 tents. Has this gotten out of hand?
Norma McCullough: Not at all! We have a lot of help “rushing the Grove” Friday nights, and with the numbers of fans that we have in the tents before the game, we need that much space. We jokingly say that we have a living area, a kitchen, a bar and a patio.
HottyToddy.com: We understand each game has a different food theme. Please explain.
Norma McCullough: Lamar Waddell comes up with the theme based on the opponent. Some are obvious, such as having pork when we play Arkansas and Cajun food when we play LSU. However, when we started playing A & M, we added the theme, “Home of the 12th Cocktail” as a nod to their “12th Man.” Our tailgate members brought their favorite cocktails. When we played Kentucky, we had a bourbon tasting. We have a lot of fun with the different themes.
HottyToddy.com: Every tailgating group has a quarterback or leader. Who is your’s?
Norma McCullough: We always say that Lamar Waddell is the brains of the operation, but his wife, Jan Waddell, is the heart of it.
HottyToddy.com: The nine core families who comprise your group were recruited how?
Norma McCullough: We met some of the other families at road games, some were introduced by mutual friends, and some were relatives of folks who had tailgated with us. We have families from Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
HottyToddy.com: How expensive is it per family to participate?
Norma McCullough: It varies depending on what they choose to bring.
HottyToddy.com: Is security ever a concern while at the game?
Norma McCullough: It has been a concern. We always try to have someone at the tailgate while the game is being played.
HottyToddy.com: You have developed a reputation of a woman who knows a great
deal about the football team and program. How so?
Norma McCullough: I don’t know about that, but I am married to a walking sports encyclopedia, so that helps! Plus, most of the women in the tailgate group are very knowledgeable as well. I’ve always enjoyed sports and I love to keep up with recruiting, so I’m on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
HottyToddy.com: What has been your greatest Grove moment to date?
Norma McCullough: It has to be when we beat Alabama two years ago. The atmosphere in our tailgate and the Grove was ELECTRIC! People were yelling, “Hotty Toddy,” and high fiving one another. Music was blasting and then the goal posts were carried through the Grove. What a night!
HottyToddy.com: Is there another hobby (or interest) of yours that takes this much time?
Norma McCullough: There is nothing else that compares to being an Ole Miss Rebel, so I don’t even look for other things to do! I attend the Ladies Forum, the National Signing Day event in Oxford, and Meet the Rebels. David and I also try to make every road game, and we never miss a bowl game!
HottyToddy.com: Lamar Waddell is legendary. Describe his passion for Ole Miss sports?
Norma McCullough: Every fall, Lamar is 100% football! He emails player rosters, he finds lodging for the group for road games, and every Monday he emails a spreadsheet discussing the theme and menu for the next game. He also created
The Real Thing Tailgate Facebook page.
HottyToddy.com: Although your primary residence is in Little Rock, don’t you also have a second home here?
Norma McCullough: David wanted a place in Oxford, so six years ago, he convinced me to “let him buy a place.” That’s way he tells it, but I have really enjoyed having a place to call home in Oxford. It is our stress-free zone.
HottyToddy.com: Last but not least, how many games will Ole Miss win this year?
Norma McCullough: The trend has been for the Rebels to win one additional game every year since Coach Hugh Freeze has been here. With that in mind, I think we will win 11 games. And, we have the talent, coaches, and staff to make it happen. Hotty Toddy!
To see last week’s Tailgating Traditions story about the Looser family, click here.
Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at email@example.com or call him at 985-852-7745.