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“I Wonder How They Clean All This?” – The Grove After Game Day


Trash piled high in the Grove following the Ole Miss/Auburn game on October 29, 2016

It’s 12:30 a.m in the Grove, few tents are left standing, tens of thousands of people have come and gone from under the tall trees, the game has ended, but one thing remains to be done…clean it all up.

The Grove is a 10-acre stretch of land that is at the top of anyone who knows football’s tailgating bucket list and is one of the things that makes Ole Miss the most beautiful campus in the country. On any given fall Saturday, you’ll see 5-star quality amenities, food, and drinks, but there is a side to the Grove that goes unseen by most. The sight of chandeliers, fans dressed in their Saturday best and the smells of southern cooking are replaced by the sights and smells of trash cans overflowing and loose trash as far as the eye can see.

Taking anywhere from two to four hours to clean it all up, there is an average of 90 tons of trash pulled from the Grove and Circle. The record for trash pulled out of the Grove was set earlier this season against Alabama, with 96 tons of trash. For comparison, that’s 22 tons heavier than the Endeavor Space Shuttle that went into orbit in 1999, and only 10 tons less than that of a full-grown blue whale.img_3181

With over 100 volunteers from different organizations, a divide and conquer mentality is applied to get in and get out as quickly as possible while ensuring the clean up is done correctly. One of the groups volunteering was New Albany High School Baseball, who has been assisting in the Grove clean up for four years as a way to raise money for their program. While it may seem like a job not many people want, the waiting list to volunteer is a long one, so head coach John Walker knows they need to continue to do the job the right way.

“We were on the waiting list for about three or four years, so when we got the call… and it’s one of those deals where you want to do a good job so you can continue to come back,” Walker said. “Whether it’s picking up loose trash or loading up trash cans, we try to do whatever they ask and do it well.”

There’s no shortage of items that get left in the Grove, from cameras to TVs, if something is left, it’s picked up and brought back to the shop and put in a lost and found. While personal belongings may be interesting finds, the most unique find came in the form of a slithering creature for Nathan Kazinsky, assistant superintendent of Landscape Services.

“A few weeks back, I was picking up a bag and noticed something moving. I turned back around and didn’t think anything of it. Next thing I knew, I saw a six-foot long king snake next to the bag.” Kazinsky said. “In the middle of the night, that’s really the last thing you’d expect to find out here. So, that took me by surprise for sure.”

This past Saturday and for the majority of the season, the weather has cooperated and made it easy to clean up, but this hasn’t always been the case for the Grove cleanup crew.

“We’ve done it in thunder and lightning before. This year has been perfect, knock on plastic,” Lazinsky said as he tapped on the bumper of his golf cart. “It always rains at least once, and it’s just miserable. The volunteers get a little frustrated and leave a little early, and it just makes things harder to pick up.”

While many people return to celebrate a win in the Grove, Lazinsky noted that it’s typically more trash ridden after a loss due to people’s readiness to get their belongings and get back on the road.

“After a loss, people are just ready to get out of here, wipe off the tables and leave everything else. In some cases, people get really upset and kick over a [trash] can. After a win, people are a little better at getting things thrown img_3185away, and making it in the cans.”

The old saying goes “Ole Miss may lose a game, but they’ll never lose the party,” but with the amount of trash that gets pulled out of the Grove, Lazinsky asks those who say “well I’m not cleaning it up, so it doesn’t matter” to give their actions a second thought.

“The Grove is the holy grail of tailgating, and it’s something that everyone should be able to enjoy,” Kazinsky said. “So I think that everyone needs to respect it, and make it sustainable so people will be able to enjoy it for years to come.”

The goal is always to get it done as quickly as possible for Sunday morning when people get up and take a final drive through campus or a walk through the Grove before they head out of town. This Saturday was no different, after beginning around 1 a.m, the last roll out was done at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, you’ll find no tents, no food and no trash. What you will see is students studying, families walking their dogs and taking pictures, and you’ll wonder how it got all cleaned from the incredible scene that took place on that same patch of grass just 24 hours earlier.

The Grove after being cleaned on Sunday morning – October 20, 2016

Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at steven.gagliano@hottytoddy.com.

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