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MSU traditions: Left Field Lounge, Dudy Gras Parade

February 4, 2012

When Barbara Streisand sang, “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” she didn’t say it would stop her from having one.
Although the weather looked less than cooperative, the annual Dudy Gras parade was in full swing Friday afternoon.
Co-founder of the parade Hobie Hobart said even the very first year, when the day brought winter weather, Dudy Gras went ahead as scheduled.
“We call this the sixth-and-a-half annual Dudy Gras celebration because of the sleet and snow we had that first year,” Hobart said. “We ended up at Mugshots where we paraded around the restaurant. We weren’t going to let a little rain stop us, either.”
The 2012 Dudy Gras grand marshals were Beau Gregory and Frank Portera. The two gentlemen played a vital part in the first MSU baseball game at Dudy Noble Field.
“He threw out the first pitch and I caught it,” Portera said.
A Mississippi State University and Starkville tradition, the annual Dudy Gras parade began lining up in the parking lot of Rick’s Cafe in Starkville Friday afternoon. It continued along its regular path: west down Highway 182, left on Washington Street up to Mugshots, left down Main Street and University Street all the way to Dudy Noble Field on the MSU campus.
Trailers, trucks and MSU fans were gathered to celebrate the tradition of the opening of MSU baseball season and “move-in day” in Left Field Lounge.
Dudy Gras co-founder Chip Carley said the tradition of the Left Field Lounge is a big part of the Dudy Gras parade and a subject close to his heart.
“Dudy Noble Field holds the on-campus attendance record for college baseball and we’ve been to the College World Series eight times,” Carley said. “MSU baseball is a deep tradition, passed down from generation to generation, and Left Field Lounge is a huge part of that.”
Carley said people who have spots out in Left Field Lounge usually will them to their children –– illustrating how important the tradition is.
“I believe there is a waiting list for Left Field Lounge, but I don’t see anybody giving up their spot,” Carley said. “It’s one big tailgate and we’re all family. I’ve been going out there since the 70s and there are people I only see one time a year, and that’s in the Left Field Lounge during MSU baseball.”
Carley, who said he believes MSU was the first school to really make a mark on college baseball, said the Left Field Lounge tradition is often imitated but never duplicated.
“MSU was the first televised college baseball game on ESPN in the 80s,” Carley said. “One particular game had to stop play because of all the smoke from the grills.”
MSU alumnus and critically-acclaimed author John Grisham wrote about the Left Field Lounge in the introduction to “Inside Dudy Noble — A Celebration of MSU Baseball.”
“… the trucks and trailers appeared in left field, the Lounge was open for business, and the clouds of barbecue smoke became a symbol of baseball success at Mississippi State,” Grisham said.
Hobart said the tradition of the famed section behind the left field fence and all the fans there are both part of the reason the parade was started seven years ago.
“I don’t care, year to year, if it’s just some fans in the back of a pickup truck,” Hobart said. “If they’re ringing a cowbell and wearing some maroon and white, we’ll take them. I’ve always said two is a coincidence, and three is a parade.”

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