Starkville, home of Mississippi State, has been nicknamed StarkVegas. Originally, the moniker stuck as a sarcastic insult toward a town viewed as small and sleepy. But, the rise in Bulldog athletics has transformed the name into a badge of honor. Coincidentally, gamedays in Starkville are an outstanding event when this town with old southern charm becomes a cauldron of cowbell cacophony.
Those cowbells! This is a unique tradition beloved by Mississippi State and hated by everyone else. The cowbells rung in unison are as piercing and shrill as hunting uniforms are bright. Over the years, many folks have tried to banish the bell from gamedays, but the tradition has persevered. The tradition survived with the implementation of bell ringing etiquette. Signs within the stadium reading “Respect the Bell” are carefully honored. It is understood that when the center gets over the ball, to put down your bell and just yell. The scoreboard provides reminders of this message at each offensive snap. However, some opponents don’t believe that Bulldog fans consistently heed this cue. Regardless, the reverberating clang cloaks the stadium in intimidation.
Gameday in Starkville begins in the Cotton District – a vibrant strip of restaurants and watering holes that provide ample opportunities for pregame revelry. Outside the daunting double decks of Davis Wade Stadium lies The Junction – the epicenter of Bulldog tailgating featuring a wide swath of tents and tailgaters fueling up for the gridiron duel.
As game time nears, fans gather outside the main entrance of the stadium for the pregame Dawg Walk. The Famous Maroon Band blasts “Hail State” as the team makes their way through adoring fans into the arena. The intensity builds as kickoff nears. Fans make their way to the gates, muffled cowbells clanking in pockets. Upon entering through the metal detectors, fans are asked to raise their cowbells up as to not activate the sensors – nearly every fan lifts their cowbelled fists high.
The steady sound of cowbell clanks sprinkled in with intermittent hollers of “Hail State!” contribute to the atmosphere of the stadium. The iconic costumed and live mascot, both named Bully, provide pageantry and pride on the sidelines. Such love is poured out for the maroon and white as gameday at Mississippi State gives all fans the classic college football experience.